Most Americans Would Rather Have A Walkable Neighborhood Than A Big House

Potentially losing everything has brought into focus what's really important--and according to a recent survey, it's no longer having a massive house.

Taking A Walk

Before the 2008 recession hit, Americans were obsessed with big houses, big cars, paying no mind to the big debt that went along with them. But since the economic crisis, it appears that most of us have been taken down a peg or two. Potentially losing everything has brought into focus what’s really important–and according to a recent survey (PDF), it’s no longer having a massive house.

According to the 2011 Community Preference Survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors, the shifting economy has had a substantial impact on attitudes toward housing and communities. 

After hearing detailed descriptions of two different types of communities, 56 percent of Americans would prefer to live in a the smart growth community rather than a sprawl community. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said sidewalks and places to take walks are among the top community characteristics they consider important when deciding where to live. Perhaps even more surprising was the fact that 57 percent said that improving existing communities was a much higher priority than building new ones.

Other encouraging survey findings:

  • Preserving farms and open areas from development are a higher priority (53% extremely high or high priority) than creating new developments (24%).
  • Improving public transportation is viewed as the best answer to traffic congestion by half of the country (50%).
  • After hearing detailed descriptions of two different types of communities, 56% of Americans select the smart growth community and 43% select the sprawl community. Smart growth choosers do so largely because of the convenience of being within walking distance to shops and restaurants (60%).
These findings stand in stark contradiction to the actions of U.S. politicians who recently voted against an amendment that would have extended federal funding for community biking and walking programs. Instead the bill would expand current highway development, allowing bigger trucks on the road and put many DOT contracts into the hands of private corporations.
Learn more about the controversial bill in this NY Times article, and then take the time to tell your Senators exactly what kind of community you really want your tax dollars to support.

Image Credit: Flickr – Lance Shields 

Written by Beth Buczynski


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