I pulled Census 2010 data for 20 walkable neighborhoods in the United States and compared the vacancy rates for those neighborhoods to the vacancy rates for their surrounding cities (and in 1 case, the county). One pattern emerged.
Walkable neighborhoods have higher vacancy rates than their surrounding cities.
After my Twitter conversation about walkability and diversity with @GvilleJen, I wasn’t too surprized by the pattern that “Blacks & Hispanics are Less Likely to Live in Walkable Neighborhoods per Census 2010 data” (This link also has an explanation of how the 20 neighborhoods were selected & what data were used).
But I hypothesized that a socially redeeming characteristic of walkable neighborhoods would be a lower than average vacancy rate. More people buying property in walkable neighborhoods means more real estate taxes–which fund our public services. And haven’t we all been reading articles about how Gen Y loves living in dense urban areas, and how 58 percent of American would prefer to live in a neighborhood where stores are within an easy walk?
Well, the Census 2010 data indicate that walkable neighborhoods have higher vacancy rates than their surrounding cities. Only Dupont Circle in DC and City Center East in Philadelphia have slightly lower vacancy rates than their surrounding cities. Every other walkable neighborhood had a higher vacancy rate than its surrounding city. Topping the chart is Core in San Diego with a vacancy rate of 24.6% while San Diego city has a vacancy rate of 6.4%.
Why is This?
Perhaps homes for sales in walkable neighborhoods are more expensive than homes in the rest of the city. And more expensive homes were harder hit in the real estate downturn. But I haven’t loaded the new American Community Survey home values into Cubit yet, so I can’t test this hypothesis easily.
My selection of 20 walkable neighborhoods is flawed. As Ben Shardlow comments, “The top 20 neighborhoods are going to have extremely high densities of amenities like grocery stores, restaurants, coffeeshops, etc., so it’s not surprising to see the most chichi neighborhoods in the country on this list. Conclusions drawn about this upper echelon can’t safely be extended to the rest of country.”
Why do you think that walkable neighborhoods have higher vacancy rates than their surrounding cities? I’m really interested to see what other folks think about this surprising pattern.