In the middle of Seattle, most say “having a walkable neighborhood and being near local activities” is their top priority. But that's not true of the region as a whole.

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What was the most important factor when you decided where to live?

For Angelique Rosario, being in a neighborhood that allows her a car-free lifestyle was the top consideration — even more than the cost of rent. She picked Seattle’s Central District.

Not that she has a ton of money. Rosario works as a barista in a Pike/Pine cafe, and the apartment she rents just about busts her budget. “I get two paychecks a month,” she says, “and one of them I call the ‘rent check’ — it goes straight to the landlord.”

But she loves being so close to the things she wants to do. “I can walk to practically everything — work, groceries, bars, shows, yoga and meditation classes,” she says.

In prioritizing lifestyle over affordability, Rosario is a lot like her neighbors in the center of Seattle, according to new survey data. But that same data reveals how she’s different from folks in the rest of our region.

For its 2014 Travel Study, the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) surveyed more than 6,000 households in the Seattle metro area. Respondents were asked a wide variety of questions designed to help planners understand more about how and why we travel around the region.

And because where we live has an enormous impact on the way we get around, respondents were asked about what mattered to them when choosing their place of residence.

Not surprisingly, affordability was the No. 1 concern in the region as a whole — 60 percent overall deemed it “very important.” No other factor even came close.

Snohomish County and South King County residents are most concerned about it — 66 percent identified affordability as a top priority in deciding where to live. In Seattle outside of the central neighborhoods, housing cost also surpassed all other factors. On the Eastside, affordability was key to fewer residents — 50 percent said it was “very important” in deciding where to live. Still, that put it in a tie for the top spot (along with commute times).

But for folks who live in Seattle’s center — south of the Ship Canal and north of Interstate 90 — lifestyle easily trumps economics. Seventy percent ranked “having a walkable neighborhood and being near local activities” as a top priority. Affordability was 19 percentage points behind — in fact, it only placed fourth, also trailing commute times and access to public transit.

What does it mean for affordability to rank so low here?

To some degree, it reflects the increased affluence in Seattle’s close-in neighborhoods. The wealthier residents, naturally, don’t need to worry as much about housing costs. They have the luxury of allowing other considerations to take precedence.

But many in this area aren’t affluent. Yet they are willing to make sacrifices to live in Seattle’s most walkable neighborhoods.

Like Rosario, who has cut back on certain expenses, such as eating out and going to shows. And she hasn’t taken a trip home to Milwaukee for quite a while.

But she isn’t complaining. “It’s totally worth it,” she says.