Urenio Watch Watch: Cities

Smart Growth: What city-dwellers really want?

Smart growth is the trend of the future. All cities, from top-ranked Vienna, Austria to the developing metropolis of Lagos, Nigeria have embarked on ambitious smart city programmes aiming towards goals such as higher densities, compact mixed-uses and transit orientation. But even though smart growth has a number of very important and widely beneficial advantages, is it what modern city-dwellers really want? According to Ed Braddy’s interesting article on CityWatch, most americans simply do not prefer the high densities, multi-family dwellings, new urbanism, resilient cities, smart codes and transit oriented developments promoted by smart growth.

In the 2011 Community Preference Survey commission by the american National Association of Realtors, only 8% of respondents favoured a central city environment, while the vast majority preferred various suburban settings, small towns or the rural countryside. The vibrant urbanism promoted by smart growth policies does not seem to be popular at all. Only 7% of respondents wanted to live “at the centre of it all”, while the vast majority preferred to live “away from it all” and valued things such as privacy from neighbours.

Furthermore, with regard to the range of housing choices, only 8% chose an apartment or condominium, while 80% preferred the single-family detached house. In addition, only 37% of respondents preferred neighbourhoods where houses are built close together and on small lots and facilities are in walking distances, whereas 61% preferred places where houses are built further apart and on larger lots and facilities are in driving distances.

Thus, a large majority of americans actually prefer the land use patterns that is derisively referred to as sprawl, despite the tendency of officials and authorities to decide that their constituents endorse the policies of smart growth.

Mr. Braddy’s original article can be found here.