Publication Provides Insight for Creating Walkable Communities

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorWashington, D.C.–As the industry sees an increase in a demand for denser communities, the National Multi-Housing Council (NMHC) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) have produced a toolkit publication entitled “Getting Density Right: Tools for Creating Vibrant Compact Development.””We have pushed the boundaries of suburbia as far as we can in certain markets,” says Doug Bibby, NMHC president. “With the rising cost of gas, people are turning more to downtown areas to get closer to jobs.”The publication is targeted towards municipal leaders, planning officials, zoning officials, policy makers and the media. It is based on information gathered from forums in four different cities. In addition, ULI conducted a literature search and review on the subject of dense communities, explains Bibby. “They had some people doing literature searches to make sure we had a very comprehensive list of successful strategies.”The book, based on nearly a year’s worth of field research, explains useful tools for supporting walkable communities. These include using the land and building the municipalities already own, as well as the bonding authority to raise funds targeted for workforce housing, explains Bibby.Additionally, the book provides case studies of eight geographically diverse neighborhoods, the tools employed to create them and the developments that have been built with these tools. “What we wanted to do was to show diversity of solutions that are being applied across the country,” Bibby tells MHN.Bibby also explains that many municipalities are recognizing transit-oriented and mixed-use developments as advantageous because of their location near mass transit and employment. There is also a lot of emphasis on mixed use because it is easier to sell to resident.”These kinds of changes in a homeowner-centric society take time,” Bibby says. “This will be something we do for a long time and we will continue to keep pushing this because it is the right thing to do.”