Perks of ‘15-minute Neighborhoods’

Imagine a city comprised of neighborhoods in which shops, schools, jobs, and other businesses and services could be found within a 15-minute walk, bike ride, or transit ride from residents’ homes. This was the vision shared by speakers on Tuesday at the National Association of REALTORS®’ Urban Roundtable discussion, “The Rise of the 15-minute Neighborhood.” The panel of community development and planning experts offered advice on how such communities could be created and explored the potential benefits the 15-minute neighborhood could offer, such as improved local economics, an increase in racial equity, and the opportunity for seniors to age in place.

One major goal of the 15-minute neighborhood, said Calvin Gladney, CEO of Smart Growth America in Washington, D.C., is to give people back their time, so they don’t have to spend hours every week commuting to jobs and driving around to get their daily tasks done. The 15-minute neighborhood, he stated, can also promote health, give greater access to green space, and provide improved options for economic mobility.

“We envision a country where no matter where you live, or who you are, you can enjoy living in a place that is healthy, prosperous, and resilient,” said Gladney.

Five Key Components in Design

  • Think in terms of mixed-use development, such as a mix of housing, commercial usage, and small-scale manufacturing in one neighborhood.

  • Make sure residents can get to jobs and to a jobs center.

  • Plan ways for people to get around, whether they are walking, biking, or rolling—keep in mind people who might be using assisted devices such as wheelchairs.

  • Create options for multiple modes of transport—bikes, cars, and transit should all be factored in.

  • Promote racial and income equity. Affordability and attainability won’t just happen; they have to be baked into the plan.

Changes in zoning and land-use relationship

Implementing projects that incorporate these components, however, will often require systems-level change, Gladney stated. In many areas, he said, mixed-use development isn’t allowed under current zoning regulations.
“We believe changing the zoning and land-use relationship is a key component,” said Gladney.

In addition, while many senior households consist of one or two people, 85% of the housing stock consists of two-, three-, or four-bedroom houses, Arigoni said, making it difficult for older adults to downsize and remain in their current neighborhoods. Over 50% of renters aged 65 or older were rent-burdened, meaning that they spend more than 30% of their pre-tax household income on rent, she said.

Recommended reading:

The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America’s Prosperity, Security, and Sustainability in the 21st Century

“The New Grand Strategy tells the story of a plan, born within the Pentagon, to recapture America’s greatness at home and abroad by elevating sustainability as our new strategic imperative. It aligns our enduring national interests of prosperity and security with a new framework that addresses pressing economic, social, and environmental issues at home, tapping into a trillion-dollar market demand for walkable communities, regenerative agriculture and resource productivity. It is an inspiring vision of what’s possible when Americans hold a collective view of the future and come together to bring it to reality.”