With the current demand for urban real estate pushing prices up across the country, it's no surprise that walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods are in high demand. According to a new Regional Plan Association report cited by Strong Town, A majority of millennials (56 percent) want to live in those types of neighborhoods, while 44 percent of Baby Boomers, many of whom made a home in the suburbs, feel the same way, perhaps seeking to downsize as they age. Other reports suggest the same thing, as noted by Strong Town:
A recent American Planning Association survey found that across all demographic groups, fewer people want to live in suburbs. The survey found that of the respondents, 40 percent live in an auto-dependent neighborhood today, while only 10 percent would see themselves in the same type of neighborhood in the future. This preference also spanned generations, with 56 percent of millennials and 46 percent of baby boomers preferring to live in more walkable, mixed use neighborhoods, according to the APA survey.
What may be surprising is how much federal policy stands in the way of this growing preference.
According to the report and post, a longtime preference towards single-family homes has led to policies that support one type of construction to the detriment of others. Federal loans overwhelming support single-family homes—81 percent of all federal loans, according to the RPA report—and regulations that both promote larger buildings and cap commercial floor space in mixed-use projects discourage the kind of mid-level, multi-family projects needed in many struggling urban areas.
There are numerous factors at play, but the housing finance system as is stands make it more difficult, and more expensive, to develop walkable urban areas, therefore raising prices for the in-demand ones that already exist. Part of ensuring cities are developing the types of neighborhoods many people prefer would require moving the housing finance system away from it's current bias towards single-family homes.