"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."
-- John Lennon
Imagine if you will your ideal place to live ... would it be a cottage on a beach where warmth is never worried about? Would it be a cabin high in the Wasatch Mountains or on several acres in a small farming community?
Or are you looking for things that some consider would make life better, like museums and the arts, sports, beautiful parks, entertainment, top notch health care, plenty of shopping and restaurants, even trade schools and universities?
A community preference survey done for the National Association of Realtors by Belden Russonello and Stewart LLC reveals that, ideally, most Americans would like to live in walk-able cities where shops, restaurants, and local businesses are within an easy stroll from their homes, and their jobs are a short commute away. As long as those communities can also provide privacy from neighbors and detached, single-family homes, respondents also say.
If this ideal is not possible, most residents prioritize shorter commutes and single-family homes above other considerations.
The study further noted that the economy has had a substantial impact on attitudes toward housing and communities. Six in 10 adults would rather stay within their budget, even if it meant they could not live in their desired community, compared to 39 percent who would stretch their budgets. Those with lower incomes are particularly hesitant to go out on a limb financially.
Overall, Americans' ideal communities have a mix of houses, places to walk, and amenities within an easy walk or close drive. After hearing detailed descriptions of two different types of communities, 56 percent of Americans select the smart growth community and 43 percent select the sprawl community. Smart growth choosers do so largely because of the convenience of being within walking distance to shops and restaurants. Those who prefer the sprawl community are motivated mostly by the desire to live in single-family homes on larger lots.
Also drawn from the survey is the desire for privacy as a top consideration in deciding where to live. This preference is not as clear when choosing between larger lots and needing to drive, and smaller lots and being able to walk to parks, playgrounds and recreation areas. In another set of questions, the public places a greater priority on having sidewalks and places to take walks as important.
Having a reasonable commute can temper the desire for more space. While majorities of Americans prioritize space and privacy, a lengthy commute can sway them to consider smaller houses and lots.
Additionally, it was learned that community characteristics, such as high quality public schools, are more important than the size of a home. Being within close proximity of a grocery store, pharmacy, hospital, and restaurants is also important to at least six in 10 Americans.
Finally, Americans see improving existing cities and building new developments within existing communities as much higher priorities than building new developments in the countryside.
Steve Curtis has worked as a business consultant and communication specialist. He is currently mayor of Layton. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.