Smart growth presents opportunities for homebuilders in a struggling housing market

North 14th St. at Crown Square in Old North St. Louis, part of the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group‘s revitalization work in the city. Photo by Old North St. Louis via Flickr.

Rising demand for smart growth development might be a key strategy for turning around the housing industry.

Speaking to Builder magazine earlier this month, Smart Growth America Vice President Ilana Preuss explained that strong demand for walkable neighborhoods is an opportunity home builders can take advantage of:

“Households are overwhelmingly looking for places to live where they can walk to stuff. It’s as simple as that. People made a tradeoff on a large house on a large lot with lots of parking where you have a 30 minute commute and have to drive to stores, or a small house on a small lot where they don’t have ample parking but they had a commute of 20 minutes or less. Fifty-nine percent [of Americans] said they would pick the smaller house on the smaller lot…That’s a huge proportion of the market. So we see this enormous demand and a very low supply.”

Builder author Claire Easley also points to the Knight Foundation and Gallup poll Soul of the Community to highlight what today’s homebuyers want. The poll revealed three main factors that determine people’s ties to their neighborhood: how welcoming a place is to different kinds of people; access to social venues and places to meet with friends; and having a beautiful appearance and green spaces. These drivers remained consistent across demographics of age, ethnicity, and work status, and across geographic areas throughout the country.

“It’s about having downtown areas with businesses in them and having homes near schools,” Preuss said. “It’s things as simple as having sidewalks…It’s about creating those great places.”

Take a Walk [Builder magazine – January 5, 2012]