Property size preferences and the value of private and public outdoor spaces amid a shift to high-density residential development: A case study of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario
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Planning policies in Ontario, such as the Provincial Policy Statement and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, enforce urban growth boundaries to preserve natural and agricultural lands while improving neighbourhood and city vibrancy. Consequently, urban areas must be intensified through high-density development, which will limit the land available for public green spaces and large private yards. As a result, homebuyers looking for spacious properties will have to rely mainly on the turnover of older homes. Therefore, this thesis explores how residents currently living in homes with private yards value private and public outdoor space, and whether they have interest in upsizing or downsizing their homes in the future. Neighbourhood and property attributes that may be influential in homebuyer decision-making are also investigated. The cities of Kitchener and Waterloo (“Kitchener-Waterloo”) were chosen as the study location, as both cities are affected by the Growth Plan and are currently being intensified. From March to August, 2012, a random sample of 1272 households living in homes with private yards were invited to participate in a survey on yard landscaping and maintenance practices and property preferences, after which a total of 206 surveys were analyzed. Most respondents were living in medium-sized homes with medium-sized yards, and results indicated that homes and yards of medium size would be the most commonly preferred options if residents were to move (considering their household size, health, finances, etc.). On the whole, the target market for high-density homes (i.e. condominiums, small houses, and small yards) came mainly from the aging population. Nevertheless, when asked if they would ever live with less yard space in the future (when their household conditions could differ from what they were at the time of the survey), 58% of all respondents indicated that they may live in a home with a small yard and 41% indicated that they may live with no yard. Such a finding further indicated that residents may find high-density dwellings more appealing as they age. Based on findings, ways of increasing the appeal of compact dwellings are discussed, such as including a small yard or balcony, providing privacy, ensuring access to public green spaces, and being located in a safe neighbourhood. Landscapes neat in appearance and designed with grass, colourful vegetation, trees, and natural gardens are also expected to increase property appeal. Overall, if development is to remain restricted to built-up areas, developers and planners will have to create desirable high-density homes located in communities that accommodate the lifestyles of potential residents. This thesis addresses such a challenge by delineating target market groups with the potential to move to high-density homes, and by providing insight into the variables that may increase the appeal of properties as landscapes are intensified.