Urban, suburban or rural? Understanding preferences for the residential environment

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There are two ongoing trends that lead to changing preferences for the built environment. One concerns a demographic transition into more but smaller, and older, households. The other concerns greater possibilities to satisfy residential preferences due to rising incomes and technological advances. The current study explores the preference for the type of residential environment and the underlying motivations. The smaller municipality is most preferred (36%), followed by the city edge (32%), a rural area (13%), the city centre (11%) and no preference (7%). The city centre is preferred because of amenities, ambiance, liveliness and activities. The city edge is preferred because of peace and quiet and easy access to the dwelling. Social contact was rarely mentioned. In contrast, respondents who preferred a smaller municipality frequently mentioned social contact. Furthermore, feeling safe/secure and wellbeing were important items. Finally, respondents with a rural preference mentioned freedom and peace and quiet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-235
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Urbanism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Residential environment
  • housing preference
  • rural
  • suburban
  • urban


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