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Why walkable communities are good for your wallet and your waistline



Who needs a car when you’ve got everything on your doorstep?

If we are what we eat, then equally, we are what we build.

As our rates of obesity, asthma and heart disease soar, we are beginning to understand how the built environment can either enhance or damage our health.

Cars have encouraged what health experts call an ‘obesogenic environment’. Two-thirds of Australian adults and a quarter of Australian children are overweight or obese. Clearly this is not a sustainable way of living.

The Heart Foundation’s Blueprint for an Active Australia 2014-17 finds that reshaping the way we build our communities can have a significant impact on how much exercise people undertake each day. People are more likely to walk for pleasure if they are walking in communities with lots of green space and attractive streets, with an interesting mix of homes and shops, and with good access to public transport.

It makes sense, really. The nicer the place, the more likely we are to enjoy walking around it.

At Bowden, Renewal SA’s 6 Star Green Star rated community on the western edge of the Adelaide City Parklands, pedestrians and cyclists reign supreme. Cycle paths are dotted throughout, encouraging healthy, active living, while bikes are available to rent, free from one of the many local outlets. Residents live just 2.5 kilometres from the CBD, the tram ride into town takes less than half an hour and the train is even quicker. For those who can’t live without four wheels, self-service access to shared cars is also available through GoGet. As Bowden resident Barbara Brown says: “One of the highlights for us is being able to use the public transport. We rarely use the car now, which is great.”

And did you know that people are willing to pay more for walkable communities?

A recent study from the University of Texas, published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, found that a mere one per cent increase in walkability translated into a US$1,329 increase in property values. A one per cent increase in footpath density generated a $785 increase in property values.

It may not be much, but when combined with the health and lifestyle benefits, it’s easy to see why smart buyers are looking for places that are good for their wallets and their wastelines.

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