Thursday January 31, 2013
About the series: As described in the last issue of The Other Paper, the hottest issue of the past year has been “Interim Zoning” and the work of the Task Forces appointed to study the central issues surrounding future directions for city growth. On Election Day, November 6th, 2012, Saint Michael’s College Sociologist Vince Bolduc oversaw a survey of 404 voters as they responded to 30 planning-related questions asked by 20 interviewers. The accompanying article is the third in a series of four.
Voter Survey on the Future of South Burlington
The City Center, Affordable Housing and Attracting Business
The third article in the Voter Survey series takes a look at respondent attitudes towards three specific areas of ongoing discussion in the community: the possibility of a City Center, initiatives to provide more affordable housing, and the value of attracting more businesses.
As we saw in the first part in this series, “completing the City Center project” enjoyed consistent mid-level support in the list of priorities, the sixth rank priority on a list of ten. Yet when asked about which of five changes would most enhance both “the vitality and quality of life in South Burlington” and the “economic strength of South Burlington,” the City Center project appeared on the top of the list. The high value of “preserving open space” was discussed in an earlier report. The table below provides the exact percentages of voters who selected each option. The percentage for “other” is not reported.
Compared to most other issues, support for “completing the City Center project” was equally popular among various voter sub-groups. Both the options for expanding businesses or increasing affordable housing have more divided support, but on the subject of the City Center, one has to analyze the data very carefully to find significant sub-group differences.
One of the most salient of these differences is that the City Center project enjoys stronger support among “upscale” voters, those with the highest levels of education, and voters who own their residences. By one measure, 59% of voters who live in neighborhoods with estimated housing values “over $600,000” support this new initiative compared to just 29% of the voters who told our interviewers that they live in neighborhoods with housing values under $200,000.
Perhaps the partisan national political environment is also responsible for significant divisions among voters over the role of “building or expanding businesses” in South Burlington. On all three of the survey’s business-related questions, there were sharp differences of opinion from voters who claimed different political ideologies. Liberals were the least supportive, conservatives the most supportive, and independents fell between the two extremes. The graph below captures these differences quite well.
As we discussed in the first part of this series, South Burlington’s liberal leaning political orientation influences numerous seemingly non-political issues such as disposition to zoning changes, preserving farmland, and controlling the rate of housing development. In each of these issues, we have seen this political orientation enhance support for some community priorities and lessen it for others. If South Burlington had voters with a more conservative political bent, priorities for local initiatives would likely be very different.
We had several ways of asking voters about how important it was “…to build more affordable or entry-level housing in South Burlington” but each method yielded parallel responses, ranking it about 8th out of 10 options. Liberals were about three times more likely to describe the goal as “very important” than conservatives—47% to 15%. Self-described independents fell in the middle, with 36% saying it was “very important.”
By a margin of 56% to 32%, voters who rented their residences were almost twice as likely as owners to think that building “more affordable and entry level” housing was “very important.” Unlike so many other issues, the educational level of the respondent did not correlate with support for affordable housing, but people’s estimates of the market value of the homes in their neighborhood did. In general, the lower the estimate of their neighborhood’s housing values, the more likely they were to support affordable housing. See the accompanying chart for the exact figures.
Next week’s final installation in the series will look at the subject of “Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security,” the subject of one of the current Task Forces.
SOURCE: Vince Bolduc