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Suburban dream lives on, poll finds

A builders' survey in Hillsborough shows little inclination for walking or mass transit.

By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
Published December 6, 2007


People like parks - but not too close to home.

They like public transportation - but they won't necessarily ride it.

And while they're not opposed to townhomes and apartments, they hanker for single-family homes with yards.

Such were the conclusions of a November survey of Hillsborough County residents. The telephone poll of 400 registered voters measured community neighborhood and housing preferences.

The research was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Builders Association, but not all the findings were kind to the association's 1,700 members in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Asked if housing has grown too fast in the region, 72 percent of respondents said yes. Only 5 percent said growth was too slow. A similar majority said homes cost too much.

"That's an emotional trigger point," said Paul Fallon, the Ohio pollster who conducted the survey and suggested voters showed signs of being "antigrowth."

Respondents also signaled a preference for the old three bedrooms and two baths in the suburbs. Eighty-five percent said they would live in a single-family home over a townhome or condo. Two-thirds opposed mixing housing types in a neighborhood.

In what came as a surprise to some in the builder's group, only a minority of respondents wanted to live within walking distance of schools and parks. Fallon said he sees similar results across the county.

"People say, 'No matter how close I am to a school, I'm going to drive my kids this day and age,'" Fallon said.

A 73 percent majority - what Fallon called a "home run" - favors bus or light-rail stations in their neighborhoods. Then things get tricky: Fewer than half would actually ride the rails to work.

"They want others to use it so their commutes will be a little quicker," Fallon said.

The association plans to use the results to help press its case before county planners who have expressed a desire for bunching homes more densely and blending housing types.

"If there's a market for it, they're going to build it," the association's Jennifer Doerfel said of her membership. "We need to have a realistic conversation about growth. This survey is a start."

James Thorner can be reached at or (813) 226-3313.

Survey results

Some results from the Hillsborough County housing survey:

Would you prefer to live in a single-family home, multifamily home or condo?

85 percent: Single-family

15 percent: Multifamily

How close would you like to live to a public park?

16 percent: Nearby

27 percent: Within walking distance

54 percent: Within driving distance.

Would you support building homes closer together to save open space?

34 percent: Yes

62 percent: No

Source: Fallon Research & Communications Inc., with a margin of error of 4.9 percent.

[Last modified December 5, 2007, 22:16:04]

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