Not so long ago, walkable neighbourhoods had a price penalty associated with them – not a price premium. However, a structural shift is occurring, which demonstrates a fundamental change in demand in our cities. The Atlantic Cities recently released an article based on research from the Brookings Institution that shows just how much more expensive walkable, mixed-use, dense, and amenity rich neighbourhoods are in comparison to the typical suburban communities. Set on a five-tiered scale, researchers show that to move from a car-dependent exurb at the bottom of the scale to a walkable urban community at the top can cost as much as $1200 a month!
Of course, the flip side of this coin is that retail businesses do better in walkable neighbourhoods, due to increased footfall, houses are worth more per square foot, and even rent for office spaces increases. Alas, only the wealthy are able to afford such desirable urban oases, unless the supply of walkable neighbourhoods can keep up with the demand of those who want to live in them.
Although baby boomers and millennials (those born between the early 1980s and 2000) are extremely different in a number of respects, they share a similar desire to live in dense, walkable, urban communities with easily accessible amenities. Baby boomers more so because they are getting older and less able to drive themselves or walk long distances. Millennials, on the other hand, want to live in walkable neighbourhoods because they see the detriment not only to the environment, but also to social capital in suburban communities, and want to live a more sustainable and socially active life in walkable urban areas.
The main shift that needs to happen, aside from the fundamental structural shift in demand that is already occurring in the urban population, is that urban planners and business leaders need to use this data as scientific precision to build stronger cities that are based on walkablility – arguably one of the core principles of urbanism.