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Market Appreciation for Clustered Housing With Permanent Open Space

"A clustered, or, more correctly, an open-space settlement pattern is as old as New England itself. As villages grew naturally around commons and greens, individual houselots were small with homes positioned relatively close to one another. Much of the best surrounding land was not developed for housing, but was reserved for farming, forestry, and public purposes. In much of New England this spatial pattern has endured to this day, forming what many consider to be a defining characteristic of the region.

"In recent years, many planners and municipal officials have been re-examining this "neo-traditional" approach to the siting of new residential and commercial structures. Whether called open-space, village, community, cluster, or planned-unit-development zoning, the underlying principles are similar. The same number of homes that would be constructed under a conventional development plan (typically as single-family-detached units) are grouped more closely together on down-sized houselots, with the remaining area of the parcel left as permanently preserved open space. This undeveloped land, often 50% or more of the original parcel, is then either managed by a homeowner's association, deeded to the municipality or a land trust, or retained by the original owner who has surrendered (sold) all of the development rights. In this last case, the open land may be subsequently resold by the landowner, but only for agricultural, forestry, or non-motorized recreational uses. In all cases, the homeowners have traded a larger houselot for the assurance that the adjacent open land will never be developed for commercial, residential, or industrial purposes.

"Slightly more than half of Massachusetts' 351 towns now have open-space zoning options available to developers; several other northeastern states have publicly endorsed the concept as an integral component of their growth management policies. And yet, examples of recently-built, cluster/open-space developments are infrequently found in New England: The conventional option of a grid-style subdivision continues to predominate.

"One concern frequently expressed by those in the real estate and development professions is that because of the smaller houselot size, clustered housing, even with protected open space, will not necessarily appeal to the average American home-buyer as an investment. Quite correctly, they associate the marketability of a newly constructed home with its resale value (or market appreciation) in the future. This has become an increasingly important consideration, as real estate is now regarded both as a sound investment and as a hedge against inflation. Younger families frequently use residential property as a means of building equity by regularly "trading up." Any form of housing not suitable for this purpose will not, as a whole, be economically viable to build in today's market." [study Problem statement]

Author: Jeff Lacy © Copyright 1990 Center for Rural Massachusetts

Market Appreciation for Clustered Housing With Permanent Open Space

Conservation Easements, Land Development, Sustainable Development
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