What is a Subdivision?

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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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A subdivision is a concept most people in North America are familiar with because they live in one. Subdivision refers to the act of dividing large areas of land into areas that are easier to develop and subsequently sell as well as to the completed area itself. A housing subdivision is also commonly known as a plat.

The subdivision as we know it today first got underway in 1926, when the Advisory Committee on City Planning and Zoning formed the Standard City Planning Enabling Act (SCPEA). The SCPEA was responsible for defining subdivisions and organizing the plans that have since created many of the cities and townships we live in today. The SCPEA defines “subdivision” as any plot or parcel of land that is divided into two or more plots or parcels for the purpose of sale and/or development.

After the SCPEA was created, towns, cities, and communities began to develop in record numbers. Rural areas began to be developed to include several houses on individual lots. The creation of subdivisions increased the housing capacity in the United States and gave people a chance to form communities away from major downtown areas, but stay closely connected. Today, these communities are our suburbs.


For a new subdivision to be created, a developer must apply for zoning permits to the city or township where available land is located. Zoning laws determine whether the development will be single family dwellings or multi-family dwellings, how many residences can be placed on the parcel, and how public utilities will be incorporated.

Many semi-rural areas are currently being examined for their subdivision potential. As older suburbs and cities become over developed and crowded, people look to move further away from the hustle and bustle. However, many people view rural living as an inconvenience because they are located far away from retailers and service providers. To meet this demand, developers seek out large areas of land to divide and develop into a new subdivision.

The typical new subdivision consists of two or more connecting streets, which each contain several houses sitting upon small lots. The current trend in new home construction is large spacious homes that often contain large-scale rooms that serve more than one purpose – such as the great room. Lot sizes vary and its still possible to buy in a subdivision with ½ acre lots. As the US population continues to grow, we are likely to see a continuance of subdivisions popping up in semi-rural areas and the tradition of the typical American neighborhood will live on.


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Post 3
I have no problem with subdivisions in principle, but I have been alarmed to see how many of them are gated these days.

Do we really want to be cut off from everyone else?

People can live the way they want to live but I don't see why anyone would want to live behind walls.

Post 2

@summing - My childhood was pretty similar and in general I think I feel the same way that you do.

But I have always hated how silly the names of most subdivisions sound. You could ramble of a list of 20 of them without even having to stop to think - Oakbrooke, Pine Meadow, Glen Lawn. There seems to be a total lack of imagination applied to this part of the development phase.

Post 1

I have lived in subdivisions pretty much my entire life. My family moved around to a few of them. Then I went off to college. And just a few years after college I ended up buying a house in a subdivision.

I didn't plan it that way, I just ended up getting a great deal on the house. I have nothing against subdivisions as long as they are done well.

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