People Officially Want More Walkable Communities

Last week, I wrote that a sliver of the Maeser neighborhood might just be the best place in Provo. One of the underlying assumptions of that post was that people increasingly want to live in walkable areas and are less concerned with home size. In other words, McMansions are out and downtowns are in.

There’s a mountain of evidence to support that assumption, but two recent studies in particular help clarify the issue.

The first report (PDF) was released in May by Demand Institute. The report argues that the worst of the housing bubble crash is over, then argues that the recovery will be led by renters and especially young people. The report also argues that preferences will shift to the kinds of places I highlighted in my post on the Maeser neighborhood:

Consumer spending patterns will reflect the different nature of housing demand during this recovery, in particular, the high demand for rental properties, for smaller homes, and for homes in vibrant communities close to local amenities. Industries including home remodeling, financial services, media, and retail will all experience shifts in demand and new growth opportunities.

Later, on page 31, the report describes a “remodeled American dream.” The idea, the report argues, is that people still want to own a home but they’re downsizing and valuing accessibility to amenities. Those conclusions obviously support my own anecdotal and admittedly inconclusive experiences.

The second report came out in July and was produced by The Pembina Institute. Among other things, the report finds that people want to live in walkable neighborhoods:

Taking housing costs out of the picture, 81 percent of respondents would choose a house on a modest lot, a townhouse or a condo in a city or suburb that is walkable to stores, restaurants and other amenities and has good access to frequent rapid transit.

That describes downtown Provo more than virtually anywhere else in Utah Valley. The report goes on to examine different demographics and how accessible locations increasingly play a role in housing choices.

Both of these reports are lengthy and far more nuanced than I can portray in a short blog post. But the point is that people at least want less sprawling neighborhoods and more urban ones. That’s good news for Provo because it already has those types of neighborhoods. However, it should also provide increased motivation to create more developments of these kind in the future, rather than more sprawl.

More and more evidence suggests that people want well-located homes near amenities, rather than gigantic living spaces. This small home in Provo’s Maeser neighborhood fits that description quite well.


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