We’ve heard the news already. People are moving back to the city. You don’t need stats to see the cranes and read the weekly headlines about the latest new project bringing more residents to the urban core.
Demand centers around unique offerings and walkability, and the good news is that this shift in living preferences doesn’t seem to be a passing trend. With the rise of the automobile in the 1920’s came the the decline of walkability, but recently (since 2005), we’ve seen miles driven per capita plummet for a variety of reasons (read more here).
Now is the time to invest in the center city – here are five reasons why:
It’s Not Just Millenials
Among young adults, some perceptions are reality (that’s for another article). In the same survey referenced above, 77% of millennials expressed a desire for a walkable lifestyle with access to transportation. Even so, many older
adults are looking to downsize from their suburban family homes and they’re looking for the same offerings. Baby Boomers represented 9.8% of the population in 1970, and only 13% in 2010, but by 2030 this generation of active adults will represent over 20% of our population. Ask around – they aren’t interested in (another) 4 bedroom home on an acre of land at the end of a culdesac.
Cars Aren’t That Cool Anymore
America’s highest percentage of income is spent on housing. Second to housing is transportation and it represents between 15-20% of our cost of living budget. Anyone gone car shopping recently? The average price for a new vehicle is $32,000.00. That’s insane…and likely one of the main reasons that over 25% of Americans ages 16-34 do not have a diver’s license. When you look at the rise of walking and biking from the same demographic, the statistics tell the whole story.
Access to Transportation
With cars that cost $32,000 and Americans spending over $2,000 a year on gasoline (not including taxes & insurance), you can quickly calculate the economic benefits of not owning a car. For many people, this may be a necessity for work, school, and errands, but you can understand how walkable neighborhoods benefit residents in more ways than one. The good news is that major cities are catching on, and focusing efforts on multi-modal regional transportation strategies. Those that don’t will be left out in the competition for new residents (and taxes).
Dense walkable neighborhoods create demand for services, thereby creating jobs. It’s no secret that retail follows people, and studies have shown that higher walk scores directly correlate to higher retail sales. Is it any surprise, then, that housing in walkable neighborhoods are in highest demand and held stronger values during the crash of 2008? In a 2013 survey by the National Association of Realtors, 60% of Americans reported a preference for a neighborhood with a mix of houses, stores and businesses that are easy to walk to.
Walkable neighborhoods greatest value may be it’s ability to free residents from their dependence on cars and shrink their carbon footprints. The green movement isn’t a passing trend either, and studies show that 55% of people around the world now say they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact. When commuters trade their long suburban drives for a walk or subway ride to work, they cut down on pollution and traffic. They can also save a significant amount of money on transportation.
So, what are you waiting for? Find your place to live, work, and play downtown.