Current development patterns make walking or biking within and between neighborhoods difficult, increasing reliance on the automobile. An analysis of housing preferences and existing housing conditions shows an unmet demand for walkable neighborhoods. Only 14% of San Antonio neighborhoods have Walk Scores that indicate it’s a very or somewhat walkable location, and most of those are in our historic districts. While there have been some new single-family development projects with a more walkable design, it’s clear that there is demand for even more, evidenced by the high market values of the historic districts.
Encouraging walkable residential development not only diversifies the housing stock, these types of neighborhoods have positive impacts on health as well. Environments that encourage walking and biking increase residents’ physical activity, which can help address health problems such as obesity, which is on the rise in San Antonio. Reduced auto use will also improve air quality.
The City can adopt development standards for new housing that requires designs, land use and infrastructure (such as pedestrian and bike paths and lanes) that support safe walking, biking and transit use within the neighborhood and to surrounding neighborhoods, work and amenities. We must also work with nonprofit affordable housing providers so that our current residents won’t be priced out of participating in these neighborhood initiatives.