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Report: Market-Frankford line’s impact on Philly home values

Does living near the El make housing values skyrocket?

Does the El have an impact on housing prices?
Courtesy of Shutterstock

Does living along the Market-Frankford subway line, known by riders as the El, contribute to skyrocketing housing values? If you live in Center City, University City, or Fishtown, the answer is a resounding yes. Elsewhere, however, it’s a little less clear.

That’s the consensus of a new report by Econsult Solutions, which took a look at home sales in Philly neighborhoods located along the El and compared them to the city’s numbers overall. The result: The Neighborhood Premium, or “how much more or less houses sell for in that neighborhood versus the city as a whole,” explained Jonathan Tannen, Ph.D., a director at Econsult Solutions.

Some background on the El: It runs from 69th Street Station in West Philly and essentially cuts right through Center City until it reaches Old City, then curves up North until the end of the line at the Frankford Transportation Center. A recent analysis by Billy Penn and the Inquirer showed that not only has ridership on the El increased in recent years, but population in its neighborhoods has boomed, as well.

Based on Econsult’s report, the El has also had a huge impact on housing values in University City, Center City, Fishtown, and Kensington. In Fishtown, for example, buyers pay a 135 percent premium on homes. This isn’t all too surprising, said Tannen, since these neighborhoods have seen housing prices skyrocket and experienced building booms in the past two decades.

University City’s Neighborhood Premium

Fishtown’s Neighborhood Premium

What Tannen found more intriguing was that the same could not be said of neighborhoods located on the far ends of the El. “In some ways, the neighborhoods that stick out are the ones that have not received the El boom,” he said.

Specifically, the West Philly neighborhoods that follow after Cedar Park—Cobbs Creek, Haddington, and Mill Creek—have not experienced significant rising prices. In North Philly, it’s the neighborhoods of Harrogate, Juanita Park, and Frankford. Tannen points out that all of these neighborhoods were hit particularly hard by the recession, and have taken longer to recover than others.

Cobbs Creek’s Neighborhood Premium

Frankford’s Neighborhood Premium

“We then see these other neighborhoods that the El goes right through, that have not seen the same jump in prices,” he said. “So it’s clearly not just the El which matters, but that the El is part of whole package that leads to these booming neighborhoods.”

A vast amount of previous research has shown a strong correlation between living near public transit and increased housing values. A 2013 study, for example, found that during the recession, in five different U.S. metros (Philly not included) residential property values located near public transportation performed 42 percent better on average than homes located elsewhere.

Tannen said that his findings reveal that this isn’t necessarily isn’t the case in Philly. “We’re very confident that having proximity to rail transportation means that the neighborhood is much more appealing to gentrifiers, but clearly, we are not showing that it’s all that matters in this study,” he said. “This is clearly not sufficient because we do see places along the El route that haven’t experienced booming prices.”

This could certainly change, though, as people get pushed out of the booming neighborhoods and look to nearby neighborhoods with lower prices, Tannen points out. “Certainly as gentrification proceeds, I think that the housing prices will continue to spread outward.”