During the middle of a hot spell, the SaddleBrooke, Arizona community entered into a debate regarding proposed landscaping requirements. An existing HOA rule requires either a focal cactus like a Saguaro or an approved desert tree for each front yard.The proposed requirement for new construction is to plant a tree versus a focal cactus. This has sparked a discussion over trees in an upper desert area. Home values remain high in areas with trees. How will any rule change affect home values? Are trees water-efficient?
Higher temperatures are often found in urbanized areas that are devoid of trees. Green spaces and trees have been neglected as a way to cool areas. Saddlebrooke is located in the foothills and has been known for its abundance of trees and vegetation. It has expansive open spaces and larger lots than many adult communities in Arizona.
There can be an assumption that it is not water efficient or “green” to require trees.
Arizona cities, towns, and counties are all educating the public that the right trees can be extremely beneficial for heat and water management. Phoenix.gov has a wonderful infographic. It highlights key benefits and can help to dispel myths about the right water-efficient trees in the desert.
- Trees provide significant stormwater retention by absorbing rainfall and increasing the ability of soil to store water. Large trees (~37 ft. crown spread) intercept over 2,000 gallons of rainfall annually.
- Healthy trees can increase surrounding property values by 2-10%. Homes and apartments located near a park have even higher values.
- Large scale vegetated areas can be as much as 9°F cooler than non-green city centers.
- Various functions of trees, such as their evaporative cooling effect, help to reduce urban heat island (UHI) effect and heat stress-related illness and fatalities.
- Trees help to cool down buildings reducing the need for air conditioning, which then decreases energy consumption.
- Trees improve air quality by intercepting particulate matter (PM10) and absorbing pollutants. They also help reduce atmospheric CO2 levels by capturing and storing it.
Nearby Pima County also maintains an educational program. The program lists similar and a few additional benefits for shade trees.
Trees significantly increase home values and improve quality of life. Fortunately, the right tree requires little watering once it is established. What is an individual's responsibility toward a common community goal? What responsibility do developers hold for increasing green space?