The Future Boom in Mixed-Use Housing

I began receiving a newsletter from David Stookey, who seems to ask a lot of the same questions that I find myself asking as I try to navigate the future for myself and my family. This article in particular, about the likely increase in value of mixed-use housing, appealed to me because (you guessed it) we live in a mixed-use neighborhood. From “People Will Pay to Walk”:

A housing boom?
Demand for one type of neighborhood is predicted to grow fast.

We’ve been looking at the long-term advantages of living where there are shops, schools, businesses, health clinics, residences all jumbled together. A “mixed-use neighborhood” planners call it.

Many of these advantages derive from the rising costs of energy, healthcare, and taxes forecast for this decade – the stuff I’ve been writing about. Others come from the retirement preferences of baby boomers.

–saving transportation costs as fuel prices rise
–walking and biking more as health costs rise
–commuting without traffic to nearby jobs
–getting to know more neighbors
–using nearby public transit for longer trips
–finding smaller homes, apartments, and yards
–enjoying libraries, art, music, theater close to home

I very much like that I can walk to my kids’ elementary school, the grocery store, my office, my church, the local pool (which BETTER open again this year!) and a host of other places. Also, this makes me think of some of the incredible houses in the Elmwood section of Providence, which will (in an optimistic vision of the future) become a strong middle-class mixed-use neighborhood. If David Stookey is right, there are some bargains to be had on houses in our many interesting mixed-use neighborhoods across Rhode Island.

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7 responses

  1. It’s a nice thought, and I wish it was true. Unfortunately, I still see the cities emptying out as people move to the suburbs. For all the talk of ‘walkable, shopable, livable’ cities, the reality in Rhode Island seems to be rotting urban cores surrounded by suburban housing developments. The housing prices show this to be true. Prices in urban neighborhoods are still plummeting, while those in the suburbs have leveled-off and even started climbing.

    I moved into the city because I know that it’s nice to be within walking distance of a bodega or three, to be able to walk to the park or school, and have a diverse group of neighbors close by. Unfortunately, the American Dream for the majority still seems to revolve around being within driving distance of a mall and a Wal Mart, not having to interact with neighbors, and using a big car to get your 2.2 children to and from soccer practice.

  2. I suspect the situation is more nuanced, there already is a niche market for walkable neighborhoods, but mangeek is likely correct the majority don’t care (yet.)

    There are also many policies that favor suburban sprawl: one-rate cost structure for postal services, electric/gas, bus fares, etc even though it may be more efficient to serve denser neighborhoods. On the other hand, auto insurance varies with location to city disadvantage. Mortgage deduction favors homeowners over renters also a net benefit to suburbs. Tax exempt property and affordable housing is disproportionately in cities.

    Still I say “yet” above because projections on energy prices ar likely to make suburban commuting relatively more expensive. Also, there is a ring of inner suburbs (I live in one, North Providence) that has plenty of urban troubles too, the next ring is filling up, so those seeking cheaper land and more open space have to go ever further out. This cannot be sustained. And younger people seem to be more urban oriented thn the boomers. So maybe there is hope for walkable neighborhoods!

  3. The transport energy issue is partly offset by the suburbs having MUCH newer housing stock available, which is generally much more energy efficient. 80% of homes in Pawtucket are uninsulated, and insulating them is no small task, since they’re loaded with all sorts of stuff that needs mitigation before they’re worked on legally (lead paint, ancient knob-and-tube wires, asbestos building materials, etc.).

    What bothers me about ‘suburban conservatives’ is that they’ll bitch ’till the cows come home about a statewide education funding formula (“Why should I pay for Providence schools, Herp Derp!”), but they’ll happily drive to work on roads I pay for to get to the city, where the wealth creation is actually happening. Barrington, Tiverton, and Cranston wouldn’t -exist- if Providence wasn’t taking the hit by hosting hospitals, universities, and the seat of government.

  4. Hahahaha-you wanna see “mixed use housing”-just google “Early Sunday Morning”,an iconic(deservedly)American painting by Edward Hopper-that’s where I grew up-okay,I was in a four flat,but half of my neighborhood was apartments above stores.I don’t think we had zoning laws in Brooklyn back in the 40′s and 50′s.BTW-a GREAT place to grow up in spite of the crime,grime,and cold water in the morning due to cheapass landlords.
    We made deadly snowballs out of coal ash clinkers rolled with hard snow into ice grenades.We made toy rifles and scooters out of fruit crates.I can’t believe how stuff has changed.

  5. OK, well thanks for not totally harshing on my dream, people, and Joe, thanks for the Ralphie-like memories of Brooklyn.

    1. Yeah,and no one had ever heard of a bicycle helmet and only one kid I knew of was killed on one and he was hit by a bus.
      We used to sled down “Deadman”s Hill”in Lincon Terrace Park with three to a sled.
      I grew up thinking coal smoke on a winter’s morning was absolutely fragrant.

  6. I’m lucky to live in a walkable neighborhood with a library, coffee and markets. My plan is to stay here. I grew up in the burbs, and I think they offer all the aggravations of close neighbors and very little of the open space of the country. There’s always someone griping that your dog walked on their lawn. I’d rather have firetrucks screeching by 24/7. You don’t notice it after a while.

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