In recent years we have heard a lot about “walk scores” and “walkability” when it comes to marketing residential properties. It’s the latest update to the real estate mantra of “location, location, location.” A neighbourhood with a high walkability score is more desirable for those who want to buy or rent a condo or a home.
A study by the National Association of Realtors found that “emerging research has indicated that urban form and transportation options have played a key role in the ability of residential properties to maintain their value… Studies have shown that consumers are willing to pay more for housing located in areas that exemplify new urbanist principles or are ‘traditional neighbourhood developments’. These neighbourhoods are walkable, higher density and have a mix of uses as well as access to jobs and amenities such as transit.”
Canada Walks, part of Green Communities Canada, lists six key elements that make a community walkable and thus more attractive for residents and real estate investors.
• The neighbourhood must be accessible for people of all ages. For example, the sidewalks should be large enough to accommodate strollers and wheelchairs.
• There should be a mix of housing types and stores, schools, restaurants and other services.
• The community should have access to amenities, such as a community centre, recreational facilities and public transit.
• The area should have good connections to sidewalks, trails and adjoining neighbourhoods to make it easy to walk from one community to another.
• The community’s aesthetics are important. The neighbourhood should be clean and graffiti-free. There should be landscaping, shade trees, good lighting, public art, public washrooms and attractive buildings.
• Safety is paramount. With more people walking on the streets, there is less crime and vandalism. The sidewalks should be separated from the road and be well maintained.
People who live in walkable communities are 2.4 times more likely to get the required daily amount of physical activity, leading to reduced obesity levels and fewer health risks related to diabetes and heart disease.