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A residential area is a land use in which housing predominates, as opposed to industrial and commercial areas.

Housing may vary significantly between, and through, residential areas. These include single family housing, multiple family housing such as (apartments, duplexes, townhomes (or similar configurations), condominium) or mobile homes. Zoning for residential use may permit some services or work opportunities or may totally exclude business and industry. It may permit high density land use or only permit low density uses. Residential zoning usually includes a smaller FAR (floor to area ratio) than business, commercial or industrial/manufacturing zoning.The area may also be large or small.

In certain residential areas, largely rural, quite large tracts of land may exist which have no services whatsoever. Because a large distance must be traveled to access the nearest services, most journeys involve using a motor vehicle or some other form of transport. This need has resulted in Residential land development usually existing or planned infrastructure such as rail and road. The pattern of development is usually set forth in the restrictive covenants contained in the deeds to the properties in the development, but may also result from or be reinforced by zoning. Restrictive covenants are not easily changed as the agreement of all property owners (many of whom may not live in the area) may need to be obtained to effect a change. The area may also be large or small.

Residential differentiation

These are some of the various zones under which residential areas fall.

Residential development

Residential development is real estate development for residential purposes. Some such developments are called a subdivision), when the land was divided into lots with houses constructed on each piece of subdivided land. Such developments became common during the late nineteenth century, particularly in the form of streetcar suburbs.

In previous centuries, residential development was mainly of two kinds. Rich people bought a town lot, hired an architect and/or contractor, and built a bespoke house for their family. Poor urban people lived in apartment houses built for rental. Single family houses were seldom built on speculation, that is for future sale to residents not yet identified. When cities and the middle class expanded greatly, a method that had been rare became commonplace to serve the expanding demand for home ownership.

After World War II, the rapidly expanding economies of major cities of the United States, especially New York Citymarker and Los Angelesmarker produced a demand for thousands of new homes, which was largely met by speculative building. Its large-scale practitioners, dislking the name of "property speculator" coined a new name for their activity: "Residential Development". Entire farms and ranches were developed, often with one individual or company controlling all aspects of entitlement (permits), land development (streets and grading), infrastructure (utilities and sewage disposal), and housing. Communities like Levittown, Long Islandmarker or Lakewood south of Los Angeles saw new homes sold at unprecedented rates—more than one a day. Many techniques which had made the automobile affordable made housing affordable: standardization of design and small, repetitive assembly tasks, advertising, and a smooth flow of capital. Mass production resulted in a similar uniformity of product, and yet in the uniformity was a more comfortable lifestyle than cramped apartments in the cities. With the advent of government-backed mortgages, it could actually be cheaper to own a house in a new residential development than to rent.

As with other products, continual refinements appeared. Curving streets, greenbelt parks, neighborhood pools, and community entry monumentation appeared. Diverse floor plans with differing room counts, and multiple elevations (different exterior "looks" for the same plan) appeared. Developers remained competitive with each other on everything, including location, community amenities, kitchen appliance packages, and price.

Today, a typical residential development in the United Statesmarker might include a slowly winding street, dead-end road, loop road, or cul-de-sac lined with related homes. Many residential developments have purposefully meandering roads as a means of discouraging speeding automobiles in the neighborhood.

They help form the stereotypical image of a "suburban America," and are generally associated with the Americanmarker middle-class. Some residential developments can be reserved only to the most wealthy, including gated communities with multimillion-dollar homes.

Problems with Residential Developments

Criticisms of residential developments may include:

  • They do not mesh well with the greater community. Some are isolated, with only one entrance, and therefore are connected with the rest of the community in few ways.
  • Being commuter towns, they serve no more purpose for the greater community than other specialized settlements do. Whereas other planned developments take into consideration their relation to the rest of community, including commercial centers, population centers, and other aspects of community planning, residential developments are often seen as serving no purpose other than housing.

Additional reading

  • John A. Kilpatrick, Subdivision Development, (Chicago: Realtors Land Institute, 1999)


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