25 September 2014

Homeowners opt out of sprawl

Homeowners, it seems, at least in the Greater Toronto Area, are opting out of sprawl, or they would like to. So says the Royal Bank of Canada, the country's largest residential mortgage lender, and the Pembina Institute, an environmental NGO, in a new report on the preferences of GTA homeowners. The conclusions were drawn from a survey conducted by Environics Research Group in May.

According to the report, “When housing costs are not a factor, 81per cent of respondents would choose to live in an urban or suburban neighbourhood where they can walk to stores, restaurants and other amenities, and where they can access frequent rapid transit. They would choose these neighbourhoods even if it meant trading a large house and yard for a modest house, townhouse or condo.”

Unfortunately, price is a factor, a major one—over 80 per cent of respondents choose a neighbourhood because of affordability. In other words, they opt for price over preference. Interestingly, however, the young buyers (18-34) and the older buyers (over 60), the two groups most interested in location-efficient living, would pay more for a smaller home in a neighbourhood that was walkable and transit-accessible than a larger home with a yard in a neighbourhood that was car-dependent.

The challenge here is obvious—build more location-efficient communities. A more compact, efficient city is not just the dream of city planners, it is the preference of most homeowners. Build it and they will come.

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