APA poll: Millennials and Baby Boomers agree on focus for communities

Atlanta — A wide-ranging national survey released by the American Planning Association (APA) finds that Millennials and Baby Boomers want cities to focus less on recruiting new companies and more on investing in new transportation options, walkable communities, and making the area as attractive as possible. The poll also showed the perceived importance of shared economies, high-speed internet access and housing where they can live as they grow older.

Download the full report (pdf) at https://www.planning.org/policy/polls/investing/pdf/pollinvestingreport.pdf.

The poll found that 68 percent of respondents believe the U.S. economy is fundamentally flawed. They also believe the best way to make improvements nationally during the next five years is through local economies and investments that make cities, suburbs, small towns and rural areas attractive and economically desirable places to live and work.

65 percent of respondents believe investing in schools, transportation choices and walkable areas is a better way to grow the economy than investing in recruiting companies to move to the area. Whether the community is a small town, suburban or urban location, 49 percent of respondents someday want to live in a walkable community, while only 7 percent want to live where they have to drive to most places.

"If there is a single message from this poll," said APA Executive Director Paul Farmer, FAICP, "it's that place matters. Community characteristics like affordability, transportation choices, safe streets, high-speed internet and housing that can accommodate others or enable you to live there as you grow older matter as much as job opportunities."

Among other key findings:

  • 74 percent of the Millennials surveyed said attracting new businesses by investing in schools, transportation options and walkable areas is better than recruitment of companies;
  • 79 percent of respondents cited living expenses as important when deciding where to live;
  • 76 percent of respondents said affordable and convenient transportation options other than cars is at least somewhat important when deciding where to live and work;
  • 59 percent of respondents said the "shared" economy, such as CarToGo or Airbnb, is at least somewhat important to them.

"We recognize that providing people more options to get about effectively than just relying on the car will pose a host of planning and design challenges," said APA President William Anderson, FAICP. "Yet such a finding is one of the reasons we conducted this poll. As planners, it's vital that we look ahead 15 or 20 years and find ways to lessen the impact of current growth and development on tomorrow's communities."

"Part of what makes communities healthy and attractive," Anderson continued, "is their unique character — what distinguishes them from other places. To prosper, communities need to look ahead and plan so they can build on their local strengths and embrace the opportunities changing times will present."

Fifty-nine percent say that technologically enabled sharing services are at least somewhat important to them. Beyond the specifics of high-speed internet service and the nascent "sharing" economy, these findings suggest that technology and a culture of innovation and connectivity may be important factors for communities to attract new residents and businesses.

Seventy-five percent of respondents agreed it is important for where they live to have a plan to address changing conditions and emergencies. Sixty percent also expressed the importance of being able to stay in the same home as they grow older — or "age in place."

Forty-four percent of respondents were somewhat to extremely likely to move in the next five years. Fifteen of more than 300 U.S. metro areas named most were:

  • San Diego
  • New York
  • Boston
  • Denver/Boulder, Colo.
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Chicago
  • Los Angeles
  • Portland, Ore.
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Austin, Texas
  • Phoenix
  • Charlotte, N.C.
  • Atlanta
  • Miami

The national poll was commissioned to objectively analyze community preferences related to key demographic groups for economic development purposes.

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Collective Strength and their client the American Planning Association between March 11-21, 2014 among 1,040 U.S. residents who are aged 21-65 years old and have at least two years of college education, of whom 416 identified as Millennials (aged 21-34) and 416 as Baby Boomers (aged 50-65).


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