Purpose – Belfast's “peace walls” exist to physically segregate and provide a measure of security to the communities on the religious divide in Northern Ireland. Whilst they do ostensibly achieve this aim, it may well be that these structures have the capacity to prevent the restoration of normal community interactions and market processes and may also be providing their benefits at a high price with regard to issues such as house price reduction. Indeed, the effect of these structures on surrounding residential property values remains somewhat of an unknown quantity. This paper therefore measures the effect of proximity to locations with social and political conflicts. The paper aims to quantify and measure the disamenity implications and costs of artificial barriers (peace walls) within the Belfast housing market. Design/methodology/approach – This paper attempts to measure the disamenity effect of peace walls on house prices, primarily focusing on the effect of distance, calculated using a hedonic pricing specification and spatially referenced data. The data are derived from 3,836 house sales transactions over a one year period in 2011. Findings – The emerging findings demonstrate that a greater negative pricing effect is evident with proximity to the peace walls, with the exception of the apartment sector. The findings also highlight the complex market pricing structure of Belfast and offer insight as how to best classify submarkets. Practical implications – The results of the research are of particular interest to property valuers and social policy makers in regions with contested space. Originality/value – Tactile barriers scar the urban terrain, formalise ethno‐segregation across Belfast and have implications for spatial planning in the urban environment and housing studies and policy. Such an externality may have a pervasive and endogenous effect on house prices and the identification of submarkets yet there is implicit acceptance of peace lines as de facto standard and a dearth of empirical evidence relating to direction and magnitude of the location‐specific effects of peace walls on house prices in Belfast. This paper is arguably the first to empirically examine the location‐specific effects of peace walls on property value across the Belfast area.
Journal of European Real Estate Research – Emerald Publishing
Published: Nov 15, 2013
Keywords: Divided societies; Hedonic pricing; House prices; Negative externalities; Segregation
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