It is interesting that Chaffetz described health care as an “investment.” Health care, in the way that Chaffetz meant it, is an insurance. While you will “save” a lot of money if you get sick, you’re not going to get an ROI out of paying for your health care premium. However, there is a high potential ROI related to investing in your health – proactively – like eating well, exercising, etc.
As far as placemaking goes, I’d argue that it’s both – an insurance and an investment – and that’s why seeing it simply as a “cost” is myopic.
Placemaking – making places better – is increasingly a requirement to “ensuring” a city’s economic competitiveness. In an ever-globalizing world, more people choose where to live first and then find employment. Indeed, more firms are offering remote-working opportunities making personal location choices that much more important. And people are demanding more – walkability, livability – from places. So providing better places is in a sense like an insurance that you are offering the basic requirements needed to offer a thriving environment.
But placemaking is so much more than an “insurance” – it’s truly an investment that will pay off in spades.
The last several years of research show that more walkable, livable places aren’t just good for one’s health, happiness, and soul, but also in terms of hard dollars and cents. The ROI is significant – for example, we’re talking about differences of up to $1200 in residential rents and $324/sq.ft. in for-sale residental value between the lowest and highest walkable neighborhoods…that adds up when you think about how this impacts a community’s tax base. But these ROIs are not considered when choosing (falsely) between paying for every-day city services or repairing basic infrastructure and investing in better places. And of course, this almost goes without saying, better places actually can promote healthier behaviors and ultimately reduce healthcare costs…and now it comes full circle.
While I’m 100% certain than 100% of you cringed when you heard Chaffetz’s statement, many of us fail to realize that we make cringe-worthy assumptions daily in the planning and development world. We must stop seeing placemaking as a nice-to-have. We must stop thinking that we need to make “hard choices” between this “nice-to-have” and all the other city services that must be provided. We must transform our thinking and acknowledge that placemaking is one of the most lucrative, worthwhile, ethical investments we’ll ever make.
We’re making it possible – easier – for you all to consider the ROI of place in your budgeting and decision-making – not just to help you make better, more informed choices, but also to help you defend those choices by translating their benefits into hard numbers. We want to help you get that iPhone, Healthcare, and then some!