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Around Houston, a Million People Want to Live in a Walkable Place But Don’t

9:31 AM PDT on April 26, 2016

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About half of Harris County residents want to live in a walkable area, according to the Kinder Institute's survey, but 37 percent of those people report that they don't live in one. Image via Urban Edge
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Every so often someone (usually Joel Kotkin) tries to make the case that the rapid growth of Houston, as opposed to say, Chicago, is evidence that Americans love sprawl.

There's no question that Americans are moving to the Houston region in incredible numbers. But there are parts of Houston that are compact and walkable. And the fact is, there aren't enough of those places to go around, according to a survey from Rice University's Kinder Institute [PDF].

At the Kinder Institute's Urban Edge blog, Ryan Holeywell explains:

Fifty percent of respondents said they’d prefer “a smaller home in a more urbanized area, within walking distance of shops and workplaces.” Meanwhile, 49 percent preferred “a single-family home with a big yard, where you would need to drive almost everywhere you want to go.”

The good news is the county is large enough -- nearly 1,800 square miles -- that there’s something for everyone here.

But the bad news is that a deeper dive into the data reveals that many Houston-area residents aren’t living in the type of housing they say they’d prefer. And the problem is particularly acute for those who say they want to live in a walkable, urban area.

While half of Harris County residents said they’d prefer an urban-style home, 37 percent of the people in that group say they don’t live in that type of place.

That means roughly 18 percent of Harris County residents want to live in an urban area but aren’t doing so.

If you add up everyone across the three-county Houston region who wants to live in walkable areas but doesn't, it comes out to about a million people, Holeywell writes. Rising housing prices in Houston's walkable areas are a symptom of the unmet demand.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Miami Geographic delves into the surprisingly complicated question of who controls local streets. Systemic Failure reports that California is rolling back emissions regulations on older cars -- in defiance of the state's environmental goals. And Broken Sidewalk shares photos from Louisville's open streets event CycLOUvia.

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