Housing Market Activity is Associated with Disparities in Urban and Metropolitan Vegetation

K. Arthur Endsley, Daniel G. Brown, Elizabeth Bruch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


In urban areas, the consistent and positive association between vegetation density and household income has been explained historically by either the capitalization of larger lawns and lower housing densities or landscaping and lifestyle districts that convey prestige. Yet cities with shrinking populations and rising land burdens often exhibit high vegetation density in declining neighborhoods. Because the observed associations do not directly address the causal connection between measures of social privilege and vegetation in urban landscapes, it is difficult to understand the forces that maintain them. Here, we compare patterns of household income with new measures derived from housing market data and other parcel-level sources—sale prices, tax foreclosures, new housing construction, demolitions, and the balance of construction and demolition. Our aim is to evaluate whether these spatially, temporally and semantically finer measures of neighborhood social conditions are better predictors of the distribution of urban vegetation. Furthermore, we examine how these relationships differ at two scales: within the City of Detroit and across the Detroit metropolitan area. We demonstrate, first, that linear relationships between income or home values and urban vegetation, though evident at broad metropolitan scales, do not explain recent variations in vegetation density within the City of Detroit. Second, we find that the real estate and demolition records demonstrate a stronger relationship with changes in vegetation density than corresponding changes in US Census measures like income, which suggests they hold at least as much interest for understanding how the relationships between biophysical changes and neighborhood change processes come about.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1593-1607
Number of pages15
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


  • land cover
  • remote sensing
  • shrinking cities
  • social stratification
  • urban ecology
  • urban vegetation
  • urbanization
  • vegetation change
  • vegetation cover


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