People Actually Want Infill

In a recent post I argued that residential infill is vital to Provo’s success. Implicit in that argument was the fact that at present Provo basically has no residential infill. That’s a huge problem and it must change.

And as it turns out, the EPA report that I cited previously actually presents an economic argument for more infill:

Studies of consumer demand indicate that a growing number of Americans are seeking alternatives to the suburban neighborhoods most commonly associated with late-twentieth century housing construction. National studies conducted in 2006 and 2008 indicate that conventional (large-lot) suburban homes account for only 25 to 30 percent of total demand, with the remainder divided between multifamily buildings, townhomes, and small-lot single-family homes.16 A 2011 survey commissioned by the National Realtors Association found that nearly six in ten adults would prefer to live in a walkable neighborhood with a mix of houses and stores and other businesses nearby.17 The survey also found that six in ten would choose a smaller house and lot if it meant their commute time would be 20 minutes or less.

Many people want to live in denser, more walkable communities. Converting parking lots like this to housing and other uses offers a way to make that a reality.

Many people want to live in denser, more walkable communities. Converting parking lots like this to housing and other uses offers a way to make that a reality.

I’ve had many debates with people about whether the shift away from car-centric neighborhoods and toward stereotypically more “urban” development is real. And of course there will be people who want big homes on big lots for the foreseeable future. Most people, including myself, don’t want to eliminate the choice to live in that kind of environment.

But this report adds to the growing body of hard, statistical evidence that some people do want to be able to choose a different kind of place to live in. Right now that kind of place basically doesn’t exist in Provo, so people who want it go elsewhere.

The idea isn't about destroying more traditional suburbs, it's about taking spaces like this one — which are ugly and underused — and making them habitable. Everybody wins, no matter what their housing and lifestyle preference.

The idea isn’t about destroying more traditional suburbs, it’s about taking spaces like this one — which are ugly and underused — and making them habitable. Everybody wins, no matter what their housing and lifestyle preference.

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3 Comments

Filed under building, Development

3 responses to “People Actually Want Infill

  1. Variety is the spice of life, and I think almost everyone can agree that we need to have mixtures of housing and land uses. Really the big problem I see with what gets developed is the mentality of trying to force things either ultra suburban or ultra urban. In the end neither is an organic solution and most people bicker and fight – kinda like where we’re at today…

  2. Joanna

    After living in Manhattan for most of the past two decades, I stayed for several months in downtown Provo. Surprisingly, I found the downtown area to be very walkable and convenient. It was a relatively short walk (for me, who is used to walking), to two grocery stores, restaurants, BYU (movies and theater), hiking up the mountain, the ice skating rink, the recreation center, and walking to the mall and train station. Provo actually had quite a lot to offer in a relatively small area. What was disappointing were all the empty lots and the ugly apartments buildings where they obviously tore down nice historical homes. But, I would expect a revival in the Provo downtown neighborhoods if downtown starts to compete with the malls for business and improves enough that it becomes a destination. It’s just a shame that the city was designed with such ridiculously wide streets.

    Cheap oil will not be plentiful for as long as we hope so the lonely suburban lifestyle is already on the decline.

  3. Joanna

    I forgot to mention that the downtown area also has a water park and the Covey Center. Pretty amazing how much there is to do. Let’s hope the city will stop putting up office buildings with no retail space below in downtown (NuSkin!) and bring back a movie theater and good retail stores. Downtown must compete with the malls.

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