Walkable communities are healthier, happier
People stroll along Oak Park Avenue at the Oak Park sidewalk sale. | File photo
Updated: September 3, 2012 1:05PM
OAK PARK — The findings didn’t surprise me when I heard that a recent walkability study conducted by the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C.
It found that walkable communities have many advantages, and that people prefer to live in a community where they can walk to shops, parks, and other local spots. The study also found that folks will pay bigger bucks for a place to live that allows them to do so.
Although Brookings used the Washington metro area, what it found can pretty much hold true in any town U.S.A. The more walkable the neighborhood, the higher the prices. Rental properties averaged $300 more a month and home values averaged $82 more per square foot than those in less walkable areas.
Of course, I wanted to find out where our neighborhoods rated. So I checked out walkscore.com. Out of a possible 100 points, Oak Park scored 78, or “very walkable,” Elmwood Park 70, also “very walkable” and River Forest is 51, or “somewhat walkable.”
I also learned people living in walkable neighborhoods weigh six to 10 pounds less, are happier and healthier, that short commutes reduce stress and increase community involvement, and, one point of walk score is worth $3,000 to your home value!
“Walkability plays an important role in why people choose an area like Oak Park,” said Roz Byrne, an agent with RE/MAX in the Village. “Being able to walk to three train lines, a vibrant downtown full of shops and restaurants, as well as to parks and schools are things I’ll brag about in my listings.
“I’m working with a buyer right now who has twins and doesn’t drive so walkability is of paramount importance to her,” said Byrne. “Being located in a walkable area absolutely adds to the value of a home — it’s a huge part of the old real estate adage, ‘Location, location, location!’”
According to the study, the following is also true:
Walkable communities are better off economically. As walkability and pedestrians increase, so do office, residential, and retail rents, retail revenues, and for-sale residential values.
Walkable places benefit from being near other walkable places. Walkable neighborhoods that cluster and form walkable districts have higher rents and home values than stand-alone walkable places.
Walkable places residents have lower transportation costs and higher transit access, but they also play also higher housing costs. More walkable neighborhoods residents usually spend around 12 percent of their income on transportation and 30 percent on housing. In comparison, residents of places with fewer features that encourage walkability spend around 15 percent on transportation and 18 percent on housing.
Residents of places with poor walkability are generally less affluent and less educated than places with good walkability. Places with more walkability have also become more gentrified over the past decade but apparently there is no significant difference in terms of transit access to jobs between poor and good walkable places.