The Woonerf Solution
John Burns Real Estate Consulting
December 7, 2018
Woonerf has made its way to the United States. The Dutch term, which means “living street,” refers to streets with characteristics such as slow “walking pace” speed limits and shared spaces for cars, bikes, and pedestrians. Alan Scales and Ken Ryan, two architects from KTGY who were on my panel at the American Planning Association conference, presented two great case studies of Woonerf-inspired new home communities in the US. Both communities achieved tremendous sales at high price points in a high-density environment by providing buyers with:
- creative street layouts and parking
- street-oriented landscaping
- articulated home designs
- home configurations designed to create the livable indoor/outdoor environment that high-density buyers crave
On the panel, I highlighted how our consumer research shows that certain home buyers are willing to compromise on density and/or product type, given the reality of home options where they want to live. These compromises help builders and architects determine trade-offs in new home and community design to help guide the design and market feasibility process. Far too often, builders and developers who continue to rely on industry rules of thumb continue to miss out on these profitable development opportunities.
First, a little background from our latest Consumer Insights survey of new home shoppers:
- High prices are not as negative for homeownership as many think. While there is a lot of press about people moving out of expensive markets such as California, 89% of California new home shoppers want to stay in California—that’s higher than the 83% of shoppers in the country as a whole who want to stay in their home state. Most shoppers are realistic about what they can afford.
- While most buyers prefer detached housing, 52% of California new home shoppers and 46% of shoppers nationwide would consider buying an attached home under the right circumstances. Great design, including a land plan that emphasizes privacy, makes a huge difference.
- 46% of all new home shoppers say that an obstacle to buying a new home is that they can’t find what they are looking for, with one of the primary reasons being that they cannot find a design they like in their price range, even though there are plenty of new homes in their price range.
Here are the two projects Alan and Ken featured with Woonerf design elements.
1. Vitae in Costa Mesa (Orange County, CA) by Planet Home Living
Vitae consists of 20 2- and 3-story homes ranging from 1,627 to 1,706 square feet in size at a density of 17.5 units per acre. The homes checked many of our consumer research home preference boxes: single-family detached, first-floor living, private enclosed yard space, and adequate guest parking. Vitae sold out in eight months with prices in the $800Ks. The Woonerf concept plays out here in the form of articulated home exteriors, off-street parking, and balconies oriented to the street, as shown below. The homes also featured many of the new smart-home technologies that shoppers want.
Source: Vitae by Planet Home Living
2. Ebb Tide in Newport Beach (Orange County, CA) by MBK Homes
With 81 homes on 4.5 acres, this community yields 18.0 homes per acre. 3-story floor plans range in size from 1,708 to 2,157 square feet. Every home has private yard space plus a roof deck up on top. Ebb Tide has been selling more than 4.0 homes per month with prices beginning at just under $1.0 million. Woonerf concepts include “eyes on the street” floor plan layouts and articulated front elevations to create a more interesting street scene experience, as shown below.