We Want More Walkable Neighborhoods — but Can Our Communities Deliver?

shutterstock_262876634 “The most requested neighborhood characteristic of all buyers is walkability,” real estate broker Andrea Evers recently told a reporter for The Washington Post. But, in an article written by thePost‘s Michele Lerner, Evers went on to say that “very few areas” in the greater DC market meet the desired criterion, particularly if the prospective buyer wants to be within walking distance of a Metro transit station. And that, in a nutshell, is the good and bad news of walkability.

Let’s elaborate on the good part: More and more of us want to be within safe and comfortable walking distance of the destinations that meet our everyday needs, such as shops, places to eat, services, parks, and good transportation options that can take us downtown and to jobs and other places we want to go. It’s the hottest trend in real estate, sought by buyers and renters alike.

The demand is increasing

In fact, demand for walkable neighborhoods is only going to increase, as more and more members of the millennial generation, the largest generation in American history, enter the home-seeking market. Millennials prefer urban amenities more than their predecessors: 50 percent consider it “very important” to be within an easy walk of places “such as shops, cafes and restaurants,” according to the results of a nationwide survey released earlier this year by the National Association of Realtors and Portland State University. Among baby boomers, the portion considering walkability to be very important is 38 percent.

Earlier survey research (reported, for example, here) has found that 31 percent of millennials want to live in a core city, as opposed to only 15 percent of baby boomers and 18 percent of generation X. (Forty-two percent of millennials prefer living in a suburb, and 25 percent prefer living in a small town or rural setting.) But, even if they want to live in a suburb, most millennials still want walkability; 71 percent of all millennials reportedly want their home neighborhood to be walkable. Moreover, seventy-eight percent are looking for diversity; this is a generation that grew up with more diversity than its predecessors and has come to expect it where they live, in housing types and in the incomes and ethnicity of their neighbors.

It’s not just millennials who are driving demand for walkable neighborhoods, of course. In addition, a large number of baby boomers – the second largest generation in American history – are seeking new places to live as they downsize, and many of them, too, want to be able to walk to shops and amenities.Also writing in The Washington Post, reporter Ylan Q. Mui put it this way:

“Roughly 10,000 baby boomers are retiring each day, and recent data show that half of those who plan to move will downsize when they do. Many are seeking the type of urban living that typically has been associated with young college graduates — so much so that boomers are renting apartments and buying condos at more than twice the rate of their millennial children.”

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