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Density and Livability

Talking Points

In the general debate about development, people tend to fear density. Many people believe that "density" means more traffic, crowded schools, and new buildings shoehorned together. Yet, opposition often evaporates when people are presented with examples of dense communities that feature beautiful architecture and protected open space, where people can walk along shady sidewalks and feel safe letting their kids play in the front yard.

Compact development preserves natural resources, encourages independence from automobiles, reuses existing infrastructure, and feels more like fondly remembered, traditional neighborhoods. The AIA's member architects can help citizens design dense communities to be attractive, cost effective, healthy, and environmentally friendly.

Quick Facts

* Good design can create dense developments that are appealing, functional and feel less crowded.

* Well-designed, dense housing sells as well as, and sometimes better than, widely spaced homes. Dense, 24-hour neighborhoods are consistently among the top recommended real-estate investments.

* The top consumers of compact, auto-independent housing - empty nesters, childless couples, and singles - will make up the majority of American households for the foreseeable future.

* Dense developments with a clear identity, nearby shops and recreational facilities, and a sense of community feel more like the traditional neighborhoods many people admire.

* Children and the elderly can be more independent in a community where they can walk to visit friends or to a community center, rather than having to wait for a ride.

* Using land as efficiently as possible preserves open space for recreation within easy reach of city dwellers, while protecting the environment and natural systems.

* Compact developments offer higher tax revenues with lower per-unit infrastructure costs.

* Compact, attractively designed neighborhoods that offer a variety of amenities encourage people to walk, bike, or take public transit rather than drive. High density is necessary to maintain effective public transit.

* In a 2003 public-opinion poll, nearly half of the respondents favored designing communities to be more walkable, even if it means they are denser.

* People often believe that spread-out, suburban areas are safer than urban neighborhoods, but, in fact, compact communities generally have fewer traffic fatalities and faster police, fire, and ambulance response times.


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