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Townhouses in single family areas : an analysis of public attitudes towards increasing density Battles, Robert Anthony Marvin

Abstract

The past two decades have seen the construction of an increasing number of multiple dwellings in single family areas. Two possible reasons for permitting development to higher densities are to make more efficient use of land and municipal services, and to allow new residents, especially those with children, to live in a socially stable residential environment. There remains, however, widespread resistance to change within established single family neighbourhoods. Planners are thus often confronted with the problem of achieving increases in density while minimizing feelings of resentment towards incoming residents and a mistrust of government on the part of the existing residents. This study focuses upon homeowners' attitudes towards townhouses constructed in existing single family zones. The primary source of information is personal interviews conducted with a total of 75 single family residents. The interviews were equally divided between three Victoria neighbourhoods: two in which a townhouse project had been built and one in which no change had occurred. This survey followed a literature review which stresses the varying viewpoints from which the response to the introduction of new housing types into a residential neighbourhood has been examined. The purposes of the study were: a) to determine which aspects of townhouse projects are of the greatest concern to surrounding residents, b) to ascertain if and how attitudes are modified by exposure to a totunhouse project and its inhabitants, c) to evaluate the public hearing as a device for measuring community attitudes towards zoning changes, d) to recommend criteria which could guide planners in their evaluation of specific project proposals. Survey results indicated that the most troublesome aspects of town-houses were their effects on views, privacy, and traffic. Another finding was that both negative and positive shifts of attitudes had occurred. Increased concern was generated by the design of the project, while concerns lessened in relation to the issues of privacy, neighbourhood status, the type of people attracted to townhouses, property values, maintenance, parking, and open green spaces. In most cases these shifts were explained by site and project characteristics or by the fact that certain fears had not been realized. The interview results also indicated that the public hearing is an adequate device for measuring the range of residents* concerns. Nevertheless, it was concluded that the attitude survey is a more appropriate tool since it reaches a cross-section of neighbourhood residents. The final chapter describes a set of planning guidelines that should be adopted as the basic criteria for assessing townhouses and the actual project approval process. The need to formulate a municipal rezoning policy based on the above criteria is also discussed.

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