Study: Boiseans want more compact development

zkyle@idahostatesman.comJune 25, 2013 

— A study found that residents in six cities — including Boise — want more housing options in neighborhoods where they can walk to schools, parks, shops and other everyday destinations. Boiseans are willing to pay more to live in centralized communities than residents from any other city in the study.

The Sonoran Institute, which analyzes development and housing trends in the West, compiled data from thousands of home sales records and surveys from residents in Boise, Idaho's Teton Valley, Bozeman, Mont., and Buena Vista, Carbondale and Eagle in Colorado.

Home sales records since 2009 indicated that dwellings in neighborhoods the study designated as "walkable" sold for an average of 12.5 percent more than those sold in nonwalkable areas. The disparity in Boise was greater, where housing in walkable communities sold for 45 percent more.

Researchers calculated the difference by entering data from thousands of home sales into mapping software, then crunching the numbers on a per square-foot basis.

"What we find is people are willing to trade off the size of their lot or home in order to live in a neighborhood that is walkable," said Randy Carpenter, director of the Sonoran Institute’s Northern Rockies Program. "The (study results) would lead you to think there’s a lot of demand that isn’t being met in Boise."

The study labeled a handful of Boise neighborhoods as walkable: the Mill District in the Harris Ranch subdivision, Bown Crossing, Hidden Springs in Ada County, Warm Springs and downtown, which extends into the North End.

Walkable neighborhoods generally feature compact development, resulting in smaller lots and more multi-family dwellings such as apartments, townhouses and condominiums, Carpenter said. Walkable downtowns tend to be mixed-use, meaning parking, offices, stores and housing often share blocks or buildings.

Urban sprawl areas, such as subdivisions and cul-de-sacs, are typically less walkable, Carpenter said.

The study shows a shift in the attitudes of homebuyer preferences away from subdivisions and toward more central locations, Carpenter said.

"I think that the days of the large, McMansion subdivisions that are way out from the town centers are (losing favor)," Carpenter said. "I’m not saying you’ll never see that again. But these new models that are increasingly segmented, smaller, closer in and more walkable will be on the upswing."

Read more about walkable neighborhoods in Wednesday's Idaho Statesman.

Zach Kyle: 377-6464

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