Economics of Toronto’s Tree Canopy: Big Trees; Big Bucks. 28th 2013

On January 16th, the city budget was passed – with a few amendments that directly impacted our neighbourhood.  The first was of course, the 6 month reprieve for the Runnymede Fire Station.  Excellent! And a one time grant for the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation which has been an integral factor in our efforts to save the High Park Zoo. Wonderful news!

One of the more seemingly inconsequential amendments is one which addresses the “Tree Canopy.” The city, in 2007, put together a plan to increase Toronto’s tree canopy from its current state of 20%, to 30-40% by 2050.  The proposed city budget was going scrap the “timeline” which basically means reallocating the funds for the growth and maintenance of the current tree canopy elsewhere. Fortunately it was reinstated. And here’s why…

One of the most enjoyable traits of our neighbourhood is, of course, the lovely old trees.  Many of our streets are lined with them, providing a green, lacy roof over our heads.  And the trees in our neighbourhood are some of the oldest and biggest in the city.

We all know that trees are good for us and the environment.  And so we assume that the city’s regulations around what we do with the trees on our own property is mainly to do with “being green.”.  Which is absolutely true but it may also be more about “saving green” – bills that is.

There are 10.2 million trees in Toronto — 6.1 million trees are on private property and 4.1 million are on city property.  The really staggering figure?  These trees are estimated to be worth approximately $ 7 billion (yes, I meant to type a “b”) and provide over $60 M per year in ecological services.  So that means that we, the citizens of Toronto, hold approximately 4.2 billion dollars worth of city assets, assets which currently save the city from spending an additional 36 million dollars a year.

The trees in Toronto store 1.1 million metric tonnes of carbon annually or the equivalent of annual carbon emissions from 733,000 automobiles; as well as reduce energy use from heating and cooling of residential buildings by 41,200 MWH ($9.7 million/year), improve air quality by intercepting 1430 metric tonnes of air pollutants ($16.1 per year) and mitigate storm water runoff.  They are more than just leafy decorations.

So this explains the drive behind the city regulations for how we treat the trees on private property  – any trees having a diameter of 30 cm or greater at 1.4 metres above ground level are subject to protection under City of Toronto  and permits are needed to alter or take down any tree over that size. (Municipal Code Chapter 813, Trees, Article III.)   The city simply can’t afford to replace the tree canopy that is already in existence today.  And we are its primary owners and caregivers.

High Park itself is home to great towering Black Oaks, White Pines, Honeylocusts and Catalpas, all of which grow anywhere from 50-80 ft high. (for more info on the amazing trees growing in High Park, visit  Our streets are generally lined with towering maples, oaks, and ashes again many of them reaching 70 feet or more.  And the larger the tree — the larger its ecological contribution and so the larger the cost if it’s gone.

So beyond the city’s cost and the ecological benefits, which are not small by any means – there are also reasons that strike closer to home for us.

We have one of the broadest covers in the city – with an average tree canopy cover of 35%, with our highest cover in High Park-Swansea at 46.9% (the second highest in the city.)  In the Every Tree Counts report from the City of Toronto, Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department, they have proven that on average, home values and tree canopy are closely related.  As the tree cover size declines for various neighbourhoods, so does the property value.

Every Tree Counts Report

Just for interest’s sake, consider this.  In Portland, Oregon, a study revealed that on average:

Trees increased the sale prices of houses in east Portland neighbourhoods by an average of $8,870 and reduced time on the market by an average of 1.7 days.

A tree in front of a house increased the house’s sale price by an average of $7,130. The tree’s benefits spilled over to houses within a 100-foot radius, increasing their combined value by $12,828.


There is no doubt in my mind of both the aesthetic and financial benefit of those large, old trees lining our streets.  Let’s be mindful caregivers and let’s hold the city to their commitments.

And the next time you bask in the shade of one of those old oaks and gaze up into those fluttering, green leaves…you may just see a dollar bill or two.

| Nick Pavlov | Toronto Real Estate | Toronto Real Estate Broker