Thursday, May 23, 2013

New Report on Where People Want to Live

By Jim Vaughan, Senior Fellow.  

Advocates for compact, mixed-use, walkable communities will be encouraged by the results of a report released by the Urban Land Institute on May 15. 

America in 2013, based on a nationwide survey of 1,202 adults conducted earlier this year, suggests that compact, in-fill and less car-dependent residential development is preferred by growing demographic groups, particularly Generation Y, African Americans and Latinos. 

“Gen Y—the largest generation—is the generation that is likely to have the most profound impact on land use,” ULI said in a release announcing the report. “Fifty-nine percent of Gen Y said they prefer diversity in housing choices; 62 percent prefer developments offering a mix of shopping, dining and office space; and 76 percent place high value on walkability in communities.” 

But even among all respondents, compact and less car-dependent is preferred. “Sixty-one percent said they would prefer a smaller home with a shorter commute over a larger home with a longer commute,” the ULI said. “Fifty-three percent want to live close to shopping; 52 percent would prefer to live in mixed-income housing; and 51 percent prefer access to public transportation.” 

If the respondents act on their preferences, another study suggests they will be rewarded financially. 

The New Real Estate Mantra: Location Near Public Transportation, a report by the American Public Transportation Association and the National Association of Realtors, found that homes near public transit retained their value better during the Great Recession than their counterparts in auto-dependent areas. 

Joan Mooney, writing earlier this month in UrbanLand, quotes the APTA’s Michael Melaniphy, “When homes are located near public transportation, it is the equivalent of creating housing as desirable as beachfront property.” 

Walkability is another factor in determining where people want to live—so much so that cities, neighborhoods and real estate firms are using “Walk Scores” as a marketing tool and communities with low inventories of walkable places have begun to take notice. 

In Gwinnett County, Georgia, the community and economic development initiative, Partnership Gwinnett, holds an annual Redevelopment Forum to generate interest and support for the kind of livable, walkable development that is attractive to the young professionals the county is trying to attract. 

“As we work to encourage redevelopment in our communities, we must understand that the next generation has different expectations for their community,” said Michael Paris, President and CEO, Council for Quality Growth. “Housing options, walkability and locally owned businesses are each crucial factors attracting this demographic and must be considered in Gwinnett’s redevelopment efforts.” 

In addition to the annual Redevelopment Forum, Partnership Gwinnett organized a Redevelopment Bus Tour in August that attracted more than 75 officials who toured two successful mixed-use developments in the Metro Atlanta area. 

These and other urban development initiatives make it clear that Partnership Gwinnett understands the shifting real estate preferences detailed in the ULI survey and is making a concerted effort to position the county to capitalize on them. 

Other key survey findings in the America in 2013 report: 

• “In general, the lure of homeownership remains strong: Seventy-one percent of all respondents said buying a home is a good investment, despite the housing crisis and ensuing home price declines. 

• “The quality of public transit is acceptable, where it’s available: Of those with access to buses and trains, 75 percent rate the quality as satisfactory. However, half of those with no access to buses and trains were dissatisfied by this situation. Fifty-two percent of the population said that convenient public transportation was important to them. 

• “Safety and high-quality schools top the list of most sought-after community attributes: Ninety-two percent of all respondents ranked neighborhood safety as the most important attribute; good schools ranked as the second highest (79 percent). 

• “Having space and proximity are equally important: In seemingly contradictory responses, 72 percent of the survey participants said having space between neighbors is a priority; yet 71 percent placed a high value on being close to employment, schools, and healthcare facilities, and 70 percent rated walkability as a key attribute. 

• “Seventy-seven percent of the respondents reported using a car, truck or motorcycle nearly every day. However, 22 percent said they walk to a destination almost daily, and 6 percent said they take public transit.”