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Adventures in the Hunt for Housing

Community Builders Research Program

By: Alison Berry

Date: Oct, 10 2016

This January marked an exciting new chapter for us: we became an independent nonprofit organization. As we embark in this new episode, we wanted to take a moment to introduce (or re-introduce, as it were) you to our research program. Our goal is to provide sound information and tools to local leaders and engaged citizens in the region, and to encourage decisions that lead to stronger communities in the Rocky Mountain West.

About Town

Research publications from our archive, really began with About Town, in which we looked at what types of development generate revenues for counties, with the help of Joe Minicozzi from Urban3. We found that downtowns and other mixed-use nodes contribute by far the most revenue to county coffers, although they are rarely the focus of county governments.

About Town analyzed the tax revenues various development types returned to local government.

Reset

Next, our work on RESET looked at the future of housing markets in the Rocky Mountain West, finding increasing preferences for walkable and mixed use neighborhoods.

Reset looked at housing market trends across the western region.

Restore

As a follow-up, RESTORE looked at the landscape for commercial and mixed-use development in the Rocky Mountain West. In commercial real estate, as with residential real estate, emerging trends are leading to increased preferences for mixed-use spaces, where people can live close to work. Examples include the rise of online retail, downsizing of larger retail outlets, preferences for short commutes, and the rise of live/work spaces, among others.

Restore examined the market for commercial and mixed use development within the west.

Brief History of Your Neighborhood

Brief History of Your Neighborhood delved into the hidden incentives that make it difficult for communities to create the walkable, mixed use neighborhoods that are increasingly valued in the market place. 

Our "Brief History..." series examined the policies and influencers that drive sprawl and inhibit walkable developments.

Place Value

Most recently, our Place Value report focused on new paradigms in economic development, finding that community building is a key strategy for economic competitiveness. Place Value found that most business owners – 70 percent of more than 500 responding to our questionnaire – moved to a community first, then started a business at a later date. And, survey responses indicated that the important factor in selecting a place to live is the overall quality of the community, which scored higher than other factors that are often the focus of traditional economic development programs, including business incentives and tax policies.

Place Value explored the factors that attract and retain entrepreneurial activity to communities.

Common Threads

Taking a step back to look at the findings of our research as a whole, we see a few common threads:

  • People are increasingly looking for walkable, mixed use neighborhoods for places to live and work.
  • Communities that work to develop community character and active downtowns and mixed-use centers benefit economically, by attracting and retaining businesses, and by generating increased tax revenues for local governments.
  • Local governments that align policies to attract desired development will be most successful in eliminating barriers to community and economic growth.
  • As our region grows, a focus on community will be essential to maintaining the quality of life that makes this region great, while at the same time attracting new residents and economic activity that will help the region thrive for the years to come.

Whats Next

We are already underway on our next research project, which focuses on housing in our region. In many growing communities, the cost of housing has become out of reach, even for those earning the median income. With home prices escalating, what can communities do to support local residents and business? How are demographic trends, like the retirement of baby boomers and coming-of-age of millennials affecting housing markets? What is the role of rental markets vs. home-ownership, and how do markets for short-term rentals come into play?

We are excited to dig into these questions and share our results with you. Moreover, this research will share practical tools and strategies that local communities can adopt to address housing challenges at home.

We hope you will stay tuned and let us know what you’d like to see from our research program in years to come. Leave a comment and let us know!

[Editor’s note: Alison Berry is a former staff person of Community Builders]

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