Busting the Myths of Higher-Density, Mixed-Use Development


Last month, we talked about our excitement over our real estate development and investment division, and the possibilities it opens up for creating new, unique properties and use of space in San Diego. But we know that there are some stigmas that the phrases “mixed-use” and “higher-density” evoke. Fortunately, studies have already been conducted between various organizations that represent builders and developers in conjunction with environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, and they have found some good news to help assuage those concerns. Let’s break down some of the big myths behind mixed-use and higher-density development.

Myth 1: Mixed-use housing means more people aren’t paying property taxes to support infrastructure

The truth? Sure, renters don’t pay property tax, at least not directly. But the apartment owners do, as part of their commercial real estate taxes. So the money is going into the city’s infrastructure. What’s more is that with an increase in urban density, less infrastructure is needed. The bigger problem is urban sprawl, which requires more infrastructure to support with new roads and expanded services (such as police and fire, for example).

Myth 2: Higher-density development puts a strain on public services, especially public schools

The truth? The majority of families with children still occupy single-family homes. One study found that single-family developments average 64 children for every 100 units, but only 21 children per 100 units in garden apartments, and an even lower 19-100 living in mid- and high-rise apartments. So who is living in mixed-use development? Young people, childless couples, and empty nesters make up most of the residents. In fact, Baby Boomers are relocating in droves to urban centers to lessen commutes and enjoy city living.

Myth 3: But higher-density and mixed-use housing has to create more traffic and parking congestion

The truth? Actually, the opposite is true. Higher-density development breeds much less congestion. Especially now, when walking, biking, and public transportation resources are experiencing a boom, and even shared parking options are helping to prove that this myth is falser than a Lannister oath.

Myth 4: Higher-density developments lower the property values of the surrounding areas

The truth? According to extensive research, there is no real difference in rates of appreciation for properties located near higher-density development versus ones that aren’t.

Myth 5: Higher-density, mixed-use development is only for lower income households

The truth? A recent study showed that 41% of renters say they rent by choice and not out of necessity. And over the last decade, as urban centers are flourishing with new venues of culture and entertainment, people of every income group want a piece of that exciting and enriching lifestyle. In fact, the for the Baby Boomers flocking to urban centers, 90% of them say a big enticement is greater access to cultural experiences.

Myth 5: Higher density means higher crime

The truth? Again, the data doesn’t pan out. There is no significant difference in the crime rates of higher- and lower-density developments.

Myth 6: You can’t “Go Green” when you go higher-density

The truth? Lower-density development actually increases water and air pollution, and urban sprawl is more taxing on natural resources. Most low-density land is used inefficiently, which contributes to the loss of open space and farmland. And developing in urban areas where the infrastructure already exists requires fewer resources.

Myth 7: Higher density means a population explosion

The truth? Not necessarily. In fact, higher-density development really just means developing properties that have an increase in units over what currently exists, not that the Burj Khalifa is going in next door. Every neighborhood will have different needs, and cities will grow as population densities shift. But that doesn’t mean that you should expect to walk out your door and into the world of Blade Runner.

We believe that urban development has to happen responsibly, always keeping in mind the true heart of the community. That’s why the best investments in urban development come from within the community.

Next month, we’ll give you an inside look on the latest exciting possibilities of mixed-use, higher-density development and help you see what you get when you set up shop in an urban center. For more information on our recent multi-use developments, or to explore more of what we have to offer at Murfey Company, visit us at