Addressing the Smart Growth Critics

A new report published by the Victoria Transport Institute aims to counter claims made by critics of smarter neighborhood design. These critics often state that the general population dislikes multi-modal, compact, and accessible community development, instead preferring single-family households in low-density, automobile-dependent locations. Contrary to these claims, the report, Where We Want to Be: Home Location Preferences and Their Implications for Smart Growth, states that several market research results indicate that, while a single-family household is still a preferred type of home, consumer preference is shifting toward increased access to resources and greater mobility.  Some of the cited features of a desirable housing location include:

  • greater access exemplified by shorter commutes
  • nearby shopping and services
  • greater transportation choices.

The report draws on a number of studies completed in Canada and the United States. In the United States, one study (performed in Georgia) showed that, while only 5% of Atlanta’s neighborhoods are considered walkable, close to 49% of the surveyed residents of the region expressed a strong interest in accessible neighborhood design. Within Toronto, Canada, over 68% of the residents stated that they strongly preferred living in a walkable neighborhood.

While the report does not suggest that families will be moving out of the suburbs into high-density urban areas, there is some indication that demand for housing in car-dependent locations will decrease, as more individuals become increasingly concerned with rising energy prices and road congestion. The report includes the following chart that sums up some of the factors that will affect housing preferences in the future:


It will be interesting to observe if the report’s predicted development outcomes will materialize. Post your comments on these findings and forecasts below, and make sure to subscribe to the Crossroads RSS feed to keep up to date on issues related to planning and neighborhood design.

About Beata Bujalska

Beata Bujalska is the former Campaign Coordinator for Renew Lehigh Valley. She currently lives in Panama, a place that fascinates her due to (among other reasons) its recent development boom.

Posted on September 11, 2009, in Housing, Neighborhoods, Public Infrastructure, Urbanism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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