25 Oct What is Livability?

A report released by the National Association of Regional Councils, with funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation attempts to bring greater clarity to defining livability by reviewing available literature on the topic. Some of the findings include:

A review of 18 definitions of livability found there is no consensus definition, however “transportation,” “community,” and “quality” were the most common words associated with the definitions. Additionally, the idea of creating livable communities applies to all types of places – urban, rural, and suburban, of any population size. Three federal agencies, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have formed a partnership around the idea of promoting livable communities through federal policy. The Partnership for Sustainable Communities (//www.sustainablecommunities.gov/) uses these principals of livability:

  • Provide more transportation choices
  • Promote equitable, affordable housing
  • Enhance economic competitiveness
  • Support existing communities
  • Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment
  • Value communities and neighborhoods

Sustainability and livability are similar but distinct concepts. An analysis of the literature suggests that sustainability is a goal while livability is a way to describe tactics that are used to achieve sustainability goals. Another way of looking at the difference is that livability is a set of strategies for community-focused actions that are centered more on the local human environment and less on larger environmental impacts. The two concepts are similar in that, despite their different scales, both can achieve similar outcomes.

Livability objectives are achieved through a number of tactics:

  • Smart Growth
  • Complete Streets
  • Lifelong Communities
  • Safe Routes to Schools
  • Context Sensitive Solutions/Design
  • New Urbanism
  • Transit-Oriented Development
  • Placemaking

While the report does not provide specific measures for livability, it does help get us started in that direction by describing the elements that comprise a livable community and the tactics used to improve the livability of our communities. If any or our readers have tackled the task of creating measures for livability, we would love to hear about them.

The report, Livability Literature Review: A Synthesis of Current Practice by the National Association of Regional Councils can be viewed here.

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