Americans Are Very Confused About What They Want Out of a Community

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The latest national community preference survey, conducted periodically by the National Association of Realtors, was released earlier this month. The results are all over the place. Looking for evidence to support reported trends toward smart growth living in walkable, mixed use neighborhoods? You’ll find it in the poll. But, if you’re a smart growth skeptic who believes Americans still prefer conventional suburban development with large lots, you’ll find plenty of evidence for that, too.

Results favoring smart growth

The good news for smart growth advocates is that, while jobs, education, crime and health care dominate the issues of top concern for Americans, clear majorities believe that certain elements of the smart growth and sustainability agenda should be “extremely high” or “high” priorities for their state governments. These include improving the availability of affordable housing (59 percent either “extremely high” or “high” priority), protecting the environment (57 percent), and preserving farms and open spaces from development (54 percent). The portion of respondents concerned about affordable housing was up eight percent from the results of a similar poll two years ago.

Nearly half of those surveyed place a high or extremely high priority also on revitalizing cities (47 percent), reducing traffic congestion (47 percent), and providing convenient alternatives to driving (46 percent). Significantly, revitalizing cities is a significantly higher priority than creating new development outside of cities (37 percent). Supporting alternatives to driving drew clear majorities of certain demographic groups, including non-whites, urban residents, and those under age 50.

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