Lack of Affordable Walkable Neighbourhoods Damaging Health: UBC

Unaffordability issues are pushing residents out into car-dependent suburbs and directly affecting health, says new report

September 30, 2014

Vancouver West End English Bay
Vancouver's West End offers fantastic walkability scores but is unaffordable for many, pushing residents out to less walkable neighbourhoods

There is a massive unmet need for more affordable, walkable neighbourhoods across Metro Vancouver, according to new research from the University of British Columbia, funded by the Real Estate Foundation of BC.

Unaffordability issues are pushing residents out into car-dependent suburbs, where lack of walkability is having a direct impact on their health, according to the report, which was prepared in partnership with Heart and Stroke Foundation initiative Healthy Canada by Design.

The survey revealed that between 52 per cent and 64 per cent in the City of Vancouver and 29 per cent to 40 per cent of residents living in other areas of Metro Vancouver strongly prefer a neighbourhood that supports walking and easy access to public transit, even if it means giving up desirable aspects of auto-oriented neighbourhoods.

Those who prefer to walk and who live in neighbourhoods that promote walking report healthier lifestyles and better health outcomes than those who want to walk but who live in more car-friendly neighbourhoods, say the authors.

“We found that people who prefer and live in walkable neighbourhoods walk about five days per week – compared to one or two days a week for those who want to walk but do not live in a walkable neighbourhood,” says Larry Frank, professor and director of the Health and Community Design Lab, based at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health, and the lead researcher for the project.

People who prefer and live in walkable neighbourhoods reported significantly lower incidence of high blood pressure (10 per cent) than those who prefer to walk but who live in car-oriented areas (21 per cent).

“We’re pricing people out of the neighbourhoods they want and that costs us as a society through increasing health care costs,” says Frank.

To read the Residential Preferences and Public Health in Metro Vancouver: Promoting Health and Well Being by Meeting the Demand for Walkable Urban Environments, click here.

Joannah Connolly has been editor and content manager of since May 2014. Joannah has appeared on major local TV outlets as a real estate commentator, and has moderated and spoken on several industry panels. During this time, she also spent two years hosting the Real Estate Therapist radio show on Roundhouse Radio 98.3FM. A dual Canadian-British citizen, Joannah has 20 years of journalism experience in Vancouver and London, with a prior background in construction, architecture and business media.
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