Rick BissonIn 2015, a report from the National Association of Realtors on preferential lifestyles found that Millennials, those aged 18 to 34, prefer walking as a mode of transportation by 12 percentage points over driving. This group was also shown to prefer living in attached housing, living within walking distance of shops and restaurants, and having a short commute, and they were the most likely age group to make use of public transportation.

Fast forward to results from a new report from the National Association of Realtors and it is no longer just Millennials favoring walkable communities. According to the 2017 National Community and Transportation Preference Survey, members of the silent or greatest generation, those born before 1944, also prefer smaller homes in neighborhoods with easy walks to shops and restaurants.

The survey, which polled adults from across the U.S. about what they are looking for in a community, found that 62 percent of Millennials and 55 percent of the silent generation prefer walkable communities and short commutes, even if it means living in an apartment or townhouse.

“While the idea of the ‘perfect neighborhood’ is different for every homeowner, more Americans are expressing a desire to live in communities with access to public transit, shorter commutes and greater walkability,” said National Association of Realtors President Elizabeth Mendenhall.

Data from the survey indicates that 53 percent of Americans would prefer to live in communities containing houses with small yards, but within easy walking distance of the community’s amenities, as opposed to living in communities with houses that have large yards which require driving to all amenities. This figure is up from 48 percent in 2015.

It’s interesting to note that the results differ when responders have school-age kids in the home. Regardless of their generation, individuals with young children prefer a more conventional suburban community. Sixty percent of all responders with kids in school said they prefer larger homes and yards. That number jumps to 63 percent for Millennials with kids in school.

The survey also found that a majority of Americans, 88 percent, are very or somewhat satisfied with the quality of life in their communities, and 51 percent of those people believe that the walkability of their neighborhood contributes to that quality of life.

The report found that women, particularly young women, prioritize walkability and public transit more than older or younger men.

Fifty-four percent of young women said that sidewalks and places to take walks is a very important factor in deciding where to live, and 39 percent said the same about having public transit nearby. However, when it comes to a short commute to work, youth was a greater indicator of preference than gender; 49 percent of young women and 48 percent of young men said being within a short commute to work was a very important factor in deciding where to live.

While 60 percent of adults surveyed live in detached, single-family homes, 21 percent of those respondents said they would rather live in an attached home and have greater walkability. Sixty percent of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay a little or a lot more to live within walking distance of parks, shops and restaurants.

Looking at the economic impact of neighborhoods where residents primarily walk, two researchers from the Brookings Institution found a strong correlation between the walkability of a neighborhood and its economic health.

The Brookings research studied different neighborhoods in the greater Washington, D.C. area, judging the walkability of different neighborhoods on the basis of features like aesthetics, personal safety, traffic signals, and pedestrian amenities like good sidewalks and street furniture.

Overall, results from the Brookings study found that higher walkability scores were linked to stronger neighborhood economic health. For instance, sales at an in-town store were likely to increase by nearly 80 percent, thanks to increased foot traffic. Statistics show that these increased sales come despite the fact that walkers and transit users spend less per visit at local businesses than drivers do, they make more visits. Rental rates for apartments, office space, and storefronts were higher in these areas, as well.

The emerging Millennial population and the shifting lifestyle changes of the silent generation should continue to push demand for the walkable urbanism movement. Across the country, developers who were early adopters of the trend have enjoyed great financial rewards.

Maine is already seeing a demand for walkable urbanism. Conversations favoring walkable living in our Midcoast region are taking place in Bath, Brunswick, Topsham, Freeport and Damariscotta.

If you, or someone you know is interested in learning more about the available and upcoming urban residential opportunities in our Midcoast area, contact your trusted, expert Realtor.

This column is produced by Rick Bisson and his family, who own Bisson Real Estate with Keller Williams Realty of Midcoast and Sugarloaf.