Mixed-use walkable communities are what the market wants

Neighborhoods that have a mix of houses and stores and other businesses that are accessibly by foot are preferred nearly 2 to 1.

The recently released National Association of Realtors 2013 Community Preference Survey shows 60 percent of respondents favor a neighborhood with a mix of houses, stores and other businesses that are within walking distance, rather than neighborhoods requiring driving between home, work and recreation. At the same time, a majority of survey respondents replied that privacy from neighbors is the most important issue when choosing where to live and have a stated preference for detached style housing.

The survey asked a large series of questions eliciting preferences ranging from state policy issues to community structure preferences. The results of most importance for communities looking to position themselves to attract talent looked at pattern and housing type. A majority (55 percent) prefer houses with small yards and easy walkability to shops and schools over large yards and the need to drive (40 percent). A larger majority (57 percent) prefers homes with small yards and short commutes over homes with large yards and longer commutes (36 percent). A neighborhood with a mix of housing, stores and businesses within an easy walk is clearly preferred over a neighborhood with housing only and requiring driving to destinations by 60 to 35 percent. However there was a clear preference for detached housing (by 57 percent) over attached housing (39 percent), even with the longer driving typically required of the former.

Overall there is a preference for walkable communities with destinations such as schools and shopping as the main attraction. Single-family homes were the main reason for those choosing a drivable community. Those individuals looking to move within the next three years expressed a strong preference for a walkable community, 57 to 38 percent. These preferences for walkability rise with educational attainment.

This information provides communities with the opportunity to look at changing codes to allow this type of development to occur in Michigan. Michigan State University Extension offers several training programs for communities looking to allow mixed use walkable neighborhoods as a development option. A large part of the market for housing is looking for walkable neighborhoods and communities looking to attract talent now have data to support changes to their development codes.

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