1800 Block of 14th Street NW, June 18
1800 Block of 14th Street NW, June 18

Get to know D.C. with our daily newsletter

We dive deep on the day’s biggest story and share links to everything you need to know.

Urbanists are making inroads! Sort of. A new survey from the National Association of Realtors discovers what a lot of us already knew: Even though smart growth is gaining popularity, people want to live where they already live. But there’s good news; when presented with two hypothetical communities—one sprawling and one smart—people tend to go with the more sustainable one.

When selecting a community, nearly half of the public (47 percent) would prefer to live in a city (19 percent) or a suburban neighborhood with a mix of houses, shops, and businesses (28 percent). Another four in ten (40 percent) would prefer a rural area (22 percent) or a small town (18 percent). Only one in ten (12 percent) say they would prefer a suburban neighborhood with houses only.

Also of particular interest are the findings about what various types of Americans prefer:

  • Younger people who are unmarried tend to prefer the convenience of smart growth, walkable communities. Subdivision-type communities appeal more to middle-aged, married couples.
  • Political views are predictive of what type of communities Americans prefer.  Democrats and liberals tend to prefer smart growth-type communities, while Republicans and conservatives are more likely to favor sprawl-type communities.
  • In general, adults’ current housing situations reflect their preferences.  Those who live in housing-only suburbs, small towns, and rural areas prefer more spread out, less walkable communities, whereas urban residents and those who live in suburbs with a mix of housing and businesses prefer more walkable, smart growth-type communities.
  • Those on both ends of the socio-economic scale tend to prefer smart growth communities while those in the middle are more drawn to sprawl-type communities.

Above all, though, Americans really like privacy, and they’ll give up smart growth for it. Which means they’d pick a detached home on its own lot in the suburbs over a rowhouse or condo in a walkable neighborhood. Anyway, there’s lots more to the survey: Dig in.

Photo by Mike Hicks