Americans Report that Their Communities Pose Barriers to Healthy Lifestyles

Many Americans face significant community design-related barriers to living a healthy life, according to a new ULI report, America in 2015. A large number of people, particularly minorities and Millennials, report living in areas that lack easy access to safe places for outdoor physical activity, active transportation systems such as bike lanes, and healthy food options.

Read the Survey at ULI.org

Key Health-Related Findings

  • Sixteen percent of Americans, including 18 percent of African Americans and 28 percent of Latinos, say that healthy food is not easily available in their communities
  • Twenty-five percent say that traffic makes it unsafe to walk in their neighborhoods, and 21 percent say crime makes it unsafe to walk
  • Nearly four in ten people –38 percent — say that their communities lack outdoor places for recreation
  • Fifty-four percent say shopping and entertainment are not within walking distance
  • Forty-eight percent say bike lanes are insufficient to make biking a practical mode of transportation

Key Housing Findings

This year’s survey documents important housing-related preferences and highlights some potential trends to watch:

Housing Options: While most Americans are satisfied with the range of housing options they have to choose from in their communities, renters, Millennials, and the lowest-income Americans show markedly higher levels of dissatisfaction with their options. More than one-fifth of each group reports they are very or somewhat dissatisfied. Renters are more than twice as likely to be dissatisfied (25%) with their options as owners (11%).

Mobility: One-half of all adults report that they are very or somewhat likely to move in the next five years. Millennials are by far the most mobile, with 73% considering a move. The oldest adults – War Babies and the Silent Generation – tend to be more settled, but even 25% of these Americans are anticipating a move.

Affordability: Low-income Americans living outside of cities are less confident than low-income city dwellers in their ability to afford the kind of home they want in the next five years. Thirty four percent of low-income suburbanites lack confidence, as do 27% of low-income residents of rural areas and small towns, compared to 20% of low-income city dwellers.

Homeownership: Americans continue to believe that homeownership is a good investment, with 73% saying this is the case for them. Although Millennials see themselves transitioning into homeownership in the next phase of their lives, those Millennials anticipating a move over the next five years remain less likely to say they will be homeowners than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. Many of the oldest adults who expect to move will transition from ownership to rental.

Home Size: Although “moving up” is the most common expectation for those looking to move, only 41% of all movers are looking to move to a larger home over the next five years, with 23% expecting smaller homes, and 35% looking for homes of about the same size.

Housing Type: Single-family detached homes remain the dominant housing choice for Americans, with 61% of people who say they intend to move looking for these kinds of homes, down from 67% in the 2013 survey. The America in 2015 results show what may be a shift in demand toward denser single-family housing types such as townhomes and rowhouses.

About the Survey

America in 2015 is based on a nationwide survey of 1,201 adults conducted during January 2015. Survey responses are categorized by generation – Millennials, Generation X, Baby Boomers, War Babies and the Silent Generation – as well as by ethnicity, income, and location (large or medium cities, suburbs, rural or small towns). The responses are weighted to be representative of the U.S. population. The report builds on findings from America in 2013, published by ULI in May 2013.

America in 2015 was prepared jointly by the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing and ULI’s Building Healthy Places Initiative. The Terwilliger Center for Housing engages in a multifaceted program of work that furthers the development of mixed-income, mixed-use communities with a full spectrum of housing. Through the Building Healthy Places Initiative, ULI is leveraging the power of ULI’s global networks to shape projects and places in ways that improve the health of people and communities.

America in 2015 was published with support from the Colorado Health Foundation.