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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Residential land prices : a model and empirical study of inter-temporal variations Mondor, Philippe Emile


The objective of this thesis is to gain a better understanding of the process by which residential land prices are determined and change over time. A special concern is also shown for the causal relationship between the prices of building lots and the selling prices of new single-detached housing built on those lots. In the introductory chapter, the upward climb over the years in the average price of building lots relative to the increase in new house prices is identified as a matter in need of closer study. The significance of this subject for planning practice is seen to lie in the power of planning authorities to intervene in the operation of property markets, and in the role of planning authorities implied in many proposals for solving the land price problem. In Chapter Two, numerous theoretical analyses and empirical studies of the determination and inter-temporal variation in residential land prices are surveyed. A critical assessment of the literature made in the first part of Chapter Three identifies several shortcomings. A static rather than dynamic approach, the assumption of market equilibrium and perfect competition, inadequate treatment of supply-demand interaction, and a limited behavioral content, characterize most of the works surveyed. A theoretical model is subsequently developed to explain the process by which residential lot prices are determined and change over time. Its fundamental hypothesis is that the level of new house prices and their changes over time are a prime determinant of lot prices and their intertemporal variation, while the profit-maximizing behavior of lot sellers and housebuilders generates the process by which lot prices increase over time. In Chapter Four, an empirical investigation is proposed for testing the theoretical model. Data on residential construction in Canada over the 1951-1977 period and financed under the provisions of the National Housing Act are selected for the investigation. Since the data pertain to a portion rather than the whole of the lot market, the theoretical model is reformulated in light of this and other empirical conditions. The Chapter is concluded with an outline of the statistical procedures to be used in the investigation. The results of the study are presented in Chapter Five. They are found to be generally consistent with the hypotheses of the empirical model, and the postulates of the theoretical model. It is concluded, among other things , that lot sellers and housebuilders behave in the manner proposed by the models, and that lot price increases are determined by house price increases. However, the validity of the model and wider application of the empirical findings are judged to be limited by the characteristics of the data used in the study. The concluding chapter offers several suggestions for future research on land prices and some implications for planning and public policy. The need for an improved economic understanding in urban planning is identified. A potential role is identified for planners in the provision of information in a market where imperfect information is a major source of observed market failure.

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