In an ideal society, how would you get to work? How would your family get to the neighborhood pizza joint? What mode of transportation would you use to get to the bars on a Friday night?
Personal preferences will vary of course, but according to the US National Association of Home Builders, more and more young folks have the same answer: They want to walk. According to recent surveys, young Americans with home-buying power have vigorously rejected the suburbs, and generally aren’t aspiring to own the sprawling near-mansions that the previous generation did. Instead, they want to live in urban communities and rely less on cars.
The trend grew strong enough for the Wall Street Journal to run a piece called, simply, No McMansions for Millenials . From the story (emphasis mine):
Gen Y housing preferences are the subject of at least two panels at this week’s [NAHB] convention. A key finding: They want to walk everywhere. Surveys show that 13% carpool to work, while 7% walk, said Melina Duggal, a principal with Orlando-based real estate adviser RCLCO. A whopping 88% want to be in an urban setting, but since cities themselves can be so expensive, places with shopping, dining and transit such as Bethesda and Arlington in the Washington suburbs will do just fine.
“One-third are willing to pay for the ability to walk,” Ms. Duggal said. “They don’t want to be in a cookie-cutter type of development. …The suburbs will need to evolve to be attractive to Gen Y.”
This is encouraging — by saying the burbs will “need to evolve” Duggal essentially means communities will need to become more walkable to attract residents. Obviously, there are a number of benefits to orienting communities around walking as the primary mode of transportation — it’s healthier, both physically and socially, and it means residents can eschew cars. Such communities are clearly more sustainable.
Now, the American green movement may be down on itself at the moment, having failed to inspire political change to address climate change, and just having borne witness to yet another oily tragedy that served to remind how little has been done to change the nation’s consumptive habits. But perhaps it can take solace in the fact that it has inspire a shift in priorities amongst the trendsetting young home-buyers — away from sprawl and overconsumption and towards a more fundamental approach. And since the habits of the hip walking crowd will inform the development decisions for the forthcoming era, it means a lasting trend towards more sustainable communities may have been put in motion. And that’s got to count for something.