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Green Living: Telecommuting and Smart Growth Neighborhoods

Written by Carla Hill on Monday, 04 April 2011 7:00 pm
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The landscape of American workers is experiencing a shift that many green activists only dreamed of a decade ago. And this shift in mindset is translating itself into the housing industry. According to the National Association of Realtors' Community Preference Survey, "Americans favor walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods, with 56 percent of respondents preferring smart growth neighborhoods over neighborhoods that require more driving between home, work and recreation."

The workplace itself is changing. With gas prices unpredictable and rising, Lisa Margonelli, director of the Energy Policy Initiative at New America Foundation, says, "What we have to do is control how much we spend on the stuff. And the only way to break our oil dependence is to have both a long-term plan to reduce the role of oil in our economy and a short-term plan to get people to work with less oil. That short-term plan needs to include incentives for carpools and van pools, private transportation networks like jitneys, telecommuting and general transit innovation."

The country is listening, since statistics indicate that between 20 and 30 million Americans currently work from home at least one day a week (Telework Research Network).

And there has been a 74 percent increase in the number of U.S. workers in the last four years who work from home at least one day per month. This is because "40 percent of U.S. employees hold jobs that could be done at home (50 million)."

How times have changed. Today's workplace gives the opportunity for homeowners to embrace the smart growth lifestyle.

New urbanism, as smart growth is also referred to, is a way to bond communities closer together, reduce pollution by reducing car dependence, and of course, use space more responsibly. It's goal is to avoid sprawl.

According to the NAR survey, "When considering a home purchase, 77 percent of respondents said they would look for neighborhoods with abundant sidewalks and other pedestrian-friendly features, and 50 percent would like to see improvements to existing public transportation rather than initiatives to build new roads and developments."

When it comes to space, buyers are willing to sacrifice it in return for less driving time. Eighty percent of those surveyed would rather a single-family house, but only if it didn't require a longer commute. Nearly three out of five of those surveyed - 59 percent - would choose a smaller home if it meant a commute time of 20 minutes or less. It seems quality of life has surpassed the need for large homes.

Changes in how neighborhoods are designed and how they grow continues to evolve alongside the changing landscape of the American economy, workplace, and environmental needs. Smart Growth communities are a positive step in the right direction.

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