Sustainable communities that put social, environmental, and affordability first are more or less a rarity today. But as the population increases and concern over the environmental impact of our cities continues to rise, some communities are making a change. Ecodistricts, or urban neighborhoods that use sustainable planning to create prosperous communities with minimal impacts, are popping up all over the world. Real estate investors looking for the next big opportunity may want to look toward ecodistricts for the future of sustainable development.
What are ecodistricts?
An ecodistrict is an urban community that puts sustainability, equality, and accessibility at the core of development. Working with city planners, ecodistricts construct buildings or restore existing resources to serve the core needs of the community, which could include health and wellness, access to businesses and amenities, quality schools, and affordable housing, while leaving a minimal impact on the earth. New developments or existing real estate are restored or built to follow strict environmental requirements that include soil, air, and water quality; wildlife safety; and accessibility both in cost and transportation infrastructure.
An ecodistrict will have buildings that operate with reduced energy consumption, utilize renewable energy, and provide environmentally friendly waste collection services, public transportation, or public services like bathrooms, parks, or gardens.
Most ecodistricts that exist today are in small districts or neighborhoods located in high-density urban areas like Miami, Denver, or San Diego. While popularity is growing in the United States and Canada, they are extremely popular in Europe. Some ecodistricts are in established high- demand areas of major metro markets, like Audubon Park in Orlando, or in depressed, blighted areas that are in need of revitalization.
Could they be the sustainable development of the future?
There are major pros to investing in ecodistricts or working with local governments to get your area established as an ecodistrict, the first of which is demand. People want sustainable options for work, living, and play. Being able to bundle sustainable services together in a compact area of a desirable market makes meeting that demand far easier while also making a positive impact. Blighted neighborhoods that have a large number of vacant lots or properties are a prime candidate for potential ecodistrict development. The low cost of real estate, land, and often real estate taxes make it an affordable option to add value over time while making a lasting change. Large investors, particularly real estate investment trusts (REITs) are already tracking their sustainable efforts and making changes to their business operations and developments toward a more sustainable impact, but ecodistricts take it a step further and could present a growing opportunity for investors who are willing to develop areas in a new way.
I personally don't see the number of ecodistricts being established going anywhere but up. The younger generation, millennials and Generation Z in particular, are looking for a sustainable future, and ecodistricts may just be the answer.