Access to public services like fire departments, hospitals and libraries is viewed as even across all types of neighborhoods, but there is a perceived divide in access to public transit and high-quality education, according to the Zillow® Housing Aspirations Report.
The Zillow Housing Aspirations Report is a semiannual survey conducted by IPSOS of 10,000 homeowners and renters in 20 large metro areas across the country. It asks the respondents about their views on homeownership and their personal housing expectations.
When asked to compare their neighborhood's access to various resources with other areas, most people said they have above average access to basic public services like fire departments, hospitals and libraries. This held true regardless of the value of homes in a given area.
But less than 40 percent of people who live in bottom-tier neighborhoods say they have relatively good access to high-quality education. Nearly 70 percent of people living in top-tier neighborhoods said they have accessible high-quality education.
"No matter where you live, odds are you think your neighborhood is meeting your basic needs -- fire departments to protect your homes and hospitals to care for your family," said Skylar Olsen, Zillow Director of Economic Research and Outreach. "But schools can be harder to evaluate, and a lot depends on what each individual student's needs are. Going beyond the numbers and taking a tour or speaking with the staff, for example, can be invaluable in choosing the right school for your child."
The perceived access-to-education gap between the priciest and least-pricey neighborhoods is sizable in most metros. The largest gap is in St. Louis, where only 27 percent of people living in a bottom-tier neighborhood reported relatively good access to a high-quality education compared to 81 percent in the top tier, a 54-point difference. Other midwest metros, including Detroit and Chicago, also had large perceived gaps in educational access, with point differentials of 40 and 36 between bottom- and top-tier neighborhoods, respectively.
And those metros with narrower gaps appear to be on more equal footing only because access to high-quality education is perceived to be relatively weak all-around. In Las Vegas and Tampa, Fla., less than 50 percent of respondents from all value tiers expressed satisfaction with their educational access. Still, Los Angeles shows that it is possible to have good perceived access to education that is widely shared – it is the only metro analyzed where more than half of residents from bottom-tier neighborhoods said they were satisfied with their access.
Across the board, respondents said that job opportunity was the least available amenity, with only a third of people nationwide saying they have good access to jobs in their neighborhoods. But again, access to these opportunities was perceived to be most sparse in bottom-tier neighborhoods – just 29 percent of residents in neighborhoods with lower home values said they had good access to jobs (compared to 40 percent among respondents from pricier areas).
Residents of relatively less-pricey places in some metros reported at least decent access to jobs, but that may come with a significant trade-off as these metros also feature high housing costs overall. San Jose, Los Angeles and Seattle fall into this category – and even an entry level home in these areas is considerably more expensive than the median U.S. home. In December, the median (roughly middle-tier) U.S. home value was $223,900, well below the median bottom-tier home value in Seattle ($315,900), roughly half that in Los Angeles ($447,500) and less than a third than that in San Jose ($795,600).
But there is an axis of opportunity in America running north-to-south just east of the Continental Divide, where three metros – Minneapolis, Denver and Dallas – rank among the highest for perceived access to job opportunities among residents in bottom-tier neighborhoods. In each of these metros, the share of people in bottom-tier neighborhoods who said there is relatively good local job availability is on par with or above the overall national figure of 34 percent. These metros also match others in perceived bottom-tier access to high-quality education and financial services. And housing costs in these areas, while still higher than the U.S. median, are far lower than in the pricey West Coast metros mentioned earlier. All three metros are among Zillow’s hottest markets for 2019.
While perceived access to most amenities is worse among residents of bottom-tier neighborhoods, the pattern is reversed when it comes to public transit. In 14 of the 20 surveyed metros, those living in neighborhoods with higher home values reported worse access to transportation services. And in some of these metros, the difference in perceptions is pretty stark. In Philadelphia, 64 percent of respondents from bottom-tier neighborhoods said they enjoy good access to public transit, compared to only 30 percent of respondents in top-tier neighborhoods. The situation is similar in Denver and Las Vegas.
These differences may be because many highest or high value neighborhoods are farther away from urban cores, and so have less-frequent transit options. Or it may be because directed federal transit funding from programs like BUILD Transportation grants are geared toward economic revitalization in areas with lower home values. It could also reflect resistance of some high value communities to mass transit.
In New York and Washington, D.C., the results were flipped: A greater share of respondents living in top-tier areas said they enjoyed good access to transportation than those in the bottom tier, although respondents from less-pricey areas also reported decent access to public transportation in these areas.
Basic public services such as fire departments, libraries and hospitals were perceived as the most universally available amenities, with high ratings from respondents across all home-price tiers. Only 8 percent of respondents nationwide said they felt they had subpar access to these basic public services – and that did not fluctuate much among price tiers.
Basic public services are perceived to reach people living in all kinds of neighborhoods in most metros very effectively, but there are a few exceptions – again, particularly among respondents from bottom-tier neighborhoods. In Atlanta, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C., as many as 15 percent of respondents in bottom-tier neighborhoods reported weak access to these services. While that’s a low number compared to people’s perceptions about access to other amenities, it’s critical that residents of all areas feel their access to essential services like fire response and medical care is on par with everyone else’s.
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