Through the State and Local Growth Polling Program, the Greensboro Regional REALTORS® Association (GRRA) gained valuable insight into the housing and transportation priorities of the region’s residents. It had commissioned the poll to help inform the City of Greensboro Planning Department as it drafted its 20-year comprehensive plan, a contribution that turned out to be a win-win-win for all involved.
“It was a long-term investment, and well worth the effort,” states Nick Scarci, the Political Operations Director of NC REALTORS®, who had been seconded to the Greensboro Association as Local Government Affairs Director at the time. From start to finish, the process of formulating the 82-page “GSO2040 Comprehensive Plan” took a full three years.
It was Sue Schwartz, the City of Greensboro Planning Director, explains Scarci, who first learned about the REALTOR® Party’s State and Local Growth Polling Program at a conference, and she brought the idea of a local survey to the local REALTORS®. “She recognized how the results of such a survey could form a solid statistical basis for the city’s upcoming comprehensive plan,” he notes, so, with the support of the REALTOR® Party, he went to work with NAR staff, their polling expert, and a few members of Greensboro’s Planning Department. Together, they refined the existing national survey – cutting out questions about subways for example – for a week-long telephone poll that netted a solid sample of 412 responses for the city of roughly 300,000. The hundreds of pages of information revealed the community values of the City of Greensboro, where housing and transportation were concerned.
“On a macro level, we learned that there’s a strong appetite for Smart Growth in Greensboro,” says Scarci. “There’s also a very high satisfaction rate among residents, higher than the national average – so we’re moving in the right direction, which is good to know!” The survey also drilled down and found specific truths about the many layers of housing and transportation issues in Greensboro, like bicycle usage in less affluent areas of town. “Down the road, when the city wants to roll out a bike lane program, we’ll be able to point to this data that tells us where bikes are a primary mode of transportation, and likely used for commuting,” says Scarci, by way of example. To capitalize on the survey effort, GRRA hosted an event for local industry leaders including elected officials, developers, and Planning Department staff to promote the merits of affordable housing, strong public transportation, walkable communities, and other aspects of Smart Growth.
GRRA turned the survey results directly over to the City Planning Department, and the REALTORS® were eventually asked to provide comments on the initial draft of the comprehensive plan. Even in draft form, it was so aligned with the REALTORS®’ way of thinking, and committed to the Smart Growth values that Greensboro residents are clearly embracing, that it looked like GRRA had had a hand in writing it, says Scarci. They advocated for its adoption ahead of the City Council vote in May, and will continue to use the survey results as a multifaceted advocacy tool moving forward.
The value that the REALTORS® brought to the process, in terms of both money and expertise, he adds, earned them lots of goodwill in City Hall. “We’re so grateful to the REALTOR® Party for helping us get to this point and positioning the REALTORS® as experts in this area; it’s paid dividends here locally.”
STORY UPDATE: September 2021 the City received the 2021 Marvin Collins Planning Award for a Comprehensive Plan from the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association in recognition of the science and art of planning. More details in the press release.
To learn more about how the Greensboro Regional REALTORS® Association is making itself an indispensable partner in the city’s plans for growth, contact Nick Scarci, North Carolina REALTORS®’ Political Affairs Director, at 336-808-4234.