The next time you’re apartment or house hunting, don’t start by looking for the perfect building or home. Instead, look for the places where you’d like to spend your time — gyms, libraries, restaurants, and so on — and pick a home as close to those amenities as possible.
Preferably, no more than 15 minutes away.
As The Atlantic explains, living within a short radius of amenities like parks, libraries, coffee shops, and gyms can literally change your life:
Americans who live in communities with a richer array of neighbourhood amenities are twice as likely to talk daily with their neighbours as those whose neighbourhoods have few amenities. More importantly, given widespread interest in the topic of loneliness in America, people living in amenity-rich communities are much less likely to feel isolated from others, regardless of whether they live in large cities, suburbs, or small towns. Fifty-five per cent of Americans living in low-amenity suburbs report a high degree of social isolation, while fewer than one-third of suburbanites in amenity-dense neighbourhoods report feeling so isolated.
If you read the entire article — or the American Enterprise Institute study it draws from — you’ll learn that living in an amenity-dense neighbourhood not only reduces isolation but also increases trust in other people and prompts you to become more involved in local activities.
Plus, it’ll be easier to build those low-stakes friendships that are also correlated with an increased sense of community and well-being.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to move into a dense, walkable neighbourhood—especially if that move would mean paying more than you can afford in housing costs.
To quote the AEI:
This does not always have to take the form of village-like, walkable neighbourhoods. It is possible to blend amenities with Americans’ penchant for detached single-family homes and automobiles, as numerous suburban developments have done in recent years. In the SCS [Survey on Community and Society], people living in amenity-rich suburban communities often have similar levels of community satisfaction as people in dense, urban neighbourhoods. It seems that proximity and a multiplicity of amenities matter more than whether one lives in the middle of a big city, the suburbs, or a small town.
In short: the closer you get to the amenities you enjoy, the greater the benefits. Once it starts taking more than 15 minutes to get places, the benefits switch over into negatives.
If you want to learn more about the walkability of a prospective city, town, or neighbourhood, Walk Score is a good place to start.
You can also use services like Google Maps to locate the amenities that are the most important to you, whether you’re looking for schools, restaurants, or public trails, and start hunting for the nearest residential neighbourhood.
And before you rent or buy, try seeing how long it takes for you to travel between the place you plan to live and the stuff you hope to do. If it takes more than fifteen minutes, consider looking elsewhere.