Baby Boomer Attitudes on Compact Housing in Northwest Arkansas: A Comparative Study

By Carl Smith.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Bentonville and Fayetteville lie within the burgeoning northwest region of Arkansas, USA. To manage growth sustainably, both cities have recently adopted policies that privilege density over sprawl, but local public concern with compaction has been noted, as elsewhere in the United States. However, Bentonville’s and Fayetteville’s largest population increase through the 2000s was in the 45–64 age group, and by 2020 almost half of the region’s population will fall in this range. Housing preference surveys have concluded that this demographic—which currently encompasses the large Baby Boomer cohort—has a particular interest in denser housing. This suggests an increasing local appetite for density in these cities. This article reports on reactions to physical models of density presented to the public in local civic spaces, and presents an analysis of responses to a mail survey of trade-off attitude statements that contrast density and sprawl scenarios. It is clear that, based on the attitudes of current Baby Boomers in Bentonville and Fayetteville, policy makers and land developers cannot assume that 45–64-year-olds, even those with relatively urban living circumstances, will accept denser housing based on land efficiency alone. Clear communication and demonstration of the trade-off benefits of compaction such as preservation of the regional countryside, opportunities for neighborhood green spaces, and a clear vision of density facilitating and integrating with viable public transit, may all be required for compact housing to become a more persuasive development model for Baby Boomers in these cities. Furthermore, such benefits may be better communicated to the public through visualization techniques that demonstrate the livability and placemaking potential of anti-sprawl options—rather than written statements—and further research work may help elucidate the effectiveness of different approaches.

Keywords: Baby Boomers, Housing Density Attitudes, Greenspaces

The International Journal of Social Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context, Volume 11, Issue 2, June 2015, pp.49-60. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.501MB).

Dr. Carl Smith

Associate Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA