Lack of Affordable Walkable Neighbourhoods Damaging Health: UBC

Joannah Connolly
September 30, 2014

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
Joannah Connolly is editorial director of Glacier Real Estate, Glacier Media's real estate division. Joannah writes and curates real estate news for Glacier Media's local newspaper websites, including the Vancouver Courier, North Shore News, Burnaby Now, Tri-City News and others. She also oversees editorial content in Real Estate Weekly Homes, West Coast Condo, Western Investor and Glacier's special real estate publications. A dual Canadian-British citizen, Joannah has 22 years of journalism and editing experience in Vancouver and London, with a background in construction, architecture, healthcare and business media. Joannah has appeared on major local TV outlets as a real estate commentator, has moderated and spoken on various industry panels, and spent two years hosting the Real Estate Therapist radio show on Roundhouse Radio.