Improve the Infrastructure of Your Community

New community infrastructure enriches your neighborhood—and maybe your home value, too. Follow these four tips to get upgrades that boost your neighborhood’s curb appeal.

The first step in getting a sidewalk or other infrastructure in your neighborhood is to talk to local officials. Image: Royalty-Free/Corbis/Jupiterimages

It takes time and effort, but lobbying local government for sidewalks, crosswalks, street lighting, and other community infrastructure:

  • Creates a sense of community.
  • Makes an area more desirable to home buyers. Indeed, appraisers keep score of community infrastructure and amenities when valuing homes.
  • Sets your ‘hood apart from others with similar homes—especially in a competitive real estate market.

A local REALTOR® can tell you which infrastructure upgrades will offer the most value to your community. Then it’s up to you to work with local government.

1. Who controls community infrastructure?

Call your mayor or councilperson’s office to find out which office of your local government handles infrastructure upgrades and additions. Does your city or town have any short- or long-term plans to develop a grid of sidewalks or street lighting?

“Developing a system of sidewalks leading to a downtown, shopping district, or local school adds more value to the neighborhood than disjointed sections of sidewalk,” says Cheryl E. Kuck, public information officer for the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation.

The pitch: Saying that the infrastructure project is something your community needs is better than something it wants.

Example: If you want sidewalks, argue that kids need them to walk safely home from school rather than saying you need them because they’ll improve your home value.

2. What is the community infrastructure approval process?

  • You might have to get a certain number or percentage of people who live near the project to sign a petition saying they approve.

Once you know the process, figure out how to present your case.

3. Who picks up the tab for community infrastructure projects?

It’s not cheap. Concrete curbs and sidewalks cost about $15 per linear foot for curbing and $11 per square foot for walkways. Streetlight and crosswalk costs differ depending on their design.

Funding sources may include:

  • Local, state, and federal tax dollars
  • Assessments charged to home owners (Local officials may be able to offer relief or deferrals to seniors.)
  • Bonds issued by local government and paid back over many years
  • Money set aside by government for capital improvements

4. How do I deflate the naysayers?

One strategy: Emphasize health.

  • As Americans become more conscious of the environment and their health, crosswalks and sidewalks are a good way to get your neighbors out of their cars.

Support for community infrastructure projects can quickly snowball. “Building community support helps to sway local council people to your side,” says Charlie Zegeer, director of the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center.