By Tracy Taylor
Not only are smart growth communities good for your quality of life, they are good for your pocketbook as well. According to Market Acceptance of Smart Growth, a recent report by the EPA, smart growth communities not only see stable market prices over time, but they often see greater retail appreciation than the average suburban development. Given all the grim news surrounding the housing market over the past years, this is a welcome bit of news to add to the already long list of benefits of smart growth.
Smart growth – what was once the buzzword of the future has already changed the way our neighborhoods look, the way our communities interact, and the way our residents feel about the place they call home. Characterized by the centralized parks and open spaces, walkable lunch spots and coffee shops, and businesses within minutes of houses, smart growth communities encourage healthier lifestyles and a sense of community. Less money is supposedly spent on gas, less gas equals less emissions, and less emissions equals cleaner air. And of course, exercise increases as cars are kept parked in driveways and residents set off on foot or bike for their shorter commutes.
In contrast, conventional suburban neighborhoods are dominated by archaic zoning practices that separate business, home, and restaurant spaces among lands separated by highways and non-walkable distances. A run to the store often requires a car, resulting in higher gas use and higher emissions – but less exercise. At least that is how the smart growth mantra goes.
Now, on top of the health and lifestyle benefits that smart growth proponents have been touting all these years, comes the news that smart growth communities are good for the housing market too. Market Acceptance of Smart Growth analyzed the resale data from 18 smart growth developments and 18 conventional suburban developments to compare their appreciation between 1998 and 2004. In twenty-one comparisons, ten smart growth developments had higher resale appreciation than conventional suburban developments, six conventional suburban developments had higher resale appreciation, two comparisons generated equivalent conclusions between the two different development projects, and three comparisons had inconclusive results. Possibly the most telling is the finding that in approximately eighty percent of the comparisons conducted, housing units in smart growth developments sold for higher average prices per square foot. According to EPA’s study, approximately $9 billion dollars was invested in developing smart growth communities between 2000 and 2004.
The report includes case studies from smart growth projects in eight different states, including Florida, Oregon, and Alabama. You can sift through the case studies in the report or peruse the EPA’s website to find out how communities by you are incorporating compact building design, walkable neighborhoods, and public open spaces into a lifestyle that benefits the residents and the housing market. Better yet: grab the dog, park the car in a smart growth community by you, and enjoy the sense of community as you walk the winding pathways, drink a cup of joe from the community coffee shop, and enjoy growth the smart way.
Tracy Taylor is a third year student at the University of Denver and loves being able to walk to the market from her home in her own smart growth community.