Would anyone be surprised that a survey of Homewood’s most valued advantages would show “Schools” as the overwhelming first choice? An informal survey asking neighborhood respondents to rank the top five reasons to live in Homewood returned 301 responses, minus a few off-topic, showing just that. Of all respondents, more than a third overall listed schools as their top priority and more than two thirds overall chose schools as a reason to live in Homewood. Since the survey allowed free-text answers, their praise made it clear they thought the system deserved the top listing.
Schools Schools Schools Schools Schools
Nor was it surprising that “convenience” and “sense of community” followed close behind as top answers, with 224 and 218 responses respectively. In looking at the answers, 80% of those listing “convenience” in the top five referred to Homewood’s proximity to downtown Birmingham, UAB, and a few outside destinations. The remainder referred to convenience to in-town destinations, such as stores, restaurants, and churches. Answers sorted into “Community,” on the other hand, typically either used that exact word or described an intangible sense of connectedness with people in the city, usually neighbors, but often city workers or local businesses.
1. Schools 2. Diversity 3. Creative/progressive culture, yet keep Homewood’s old, small town feeling 4. Shopping/historic business districts 5. Support of independent owned businesses
“Walkability,” a planning and transportation buzzword with apparent real-life merit, earned the #4 spot in respondents’ list, a pay-off for Homewood’s focus on sidewalk installation over the last six years. From context respondents meant the ability to walk (and run and bike) anywhere in town, walk their dogs, have pleasant walks, etc., rather than referring to neighborhoods built around dense shopping cores.
Finally, “Safety,” whose meaning we take at face value but which may refer to policing and fire protection and other factors, earned the last spot of the top five.
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The interesting answers are the ones that didn’t make the top five: For example, a strong number of answers listed “Diversity” across all five ranks, sometimes spelling out that they valued racial diversity and open-mindedness in schools (as opposed to other OTM systems), sometimes diversity in their neighbors’ point of views and political leanings. Many used the word to refer to a variety of housing styles available, or variety in general (Homewood not a cookie-cutter community).
1. Location – easy access, urban community 2. Walkable – “green,” environmental concerns 3. Amenities – library, parks, community center, shopping 4. Quality of education 5. Sense of Community – good mix of residential, commercial, professional – celebrates history and future
Categories that need further explanation include Charm, etc., which includes a wide variety of answers referring to such physical characteristics as charm, quaintness, historic housing styles and neighborhoods, preservation of cottage-sized houses, and shade-tree lined streets. The Miscellaneous categories ballooned in the lower ranks with answers ranging from very specific mention of “Accountability” to “Nature Preservation” to “Fitness,” “Progressivism,” and smaller numbers of references to trees and green spaces that didn’t seem to fit the category of Parks. Top mentions are listed on the category.