Posts Tagged ‘floodlit tennis courts’

Subdivision – local life in an Atlantan suburb

In the part of the US where we live, most homes are organised into sub-divisions. These are communities of houses that share facilities like floodlit tennis courts, Swimming Pool, Clubhouses, playgrounds, basketball courts, BBQ areas, lakes etc.

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The main purpose of the sub-division is to maintain the value of the houses in that area. Under US tax code – while land may appreciate in value – the actual houses themselves are assumed to depreciate (probably because there is such a high premium on new build properties). To keep values as high as possible, communities offer both attractive facilities and also enforce strict rules on residents to protect collective value. The better the facilities are, the more likely it is that people want to live in your area and hence the higher your property value. Our pool has a large water slide (which sets it apart from its rivals). Other sub-divisions are gated and have security on hand to enable or prohibit access.

In the Land of the Free, there are many community-imposed rules. If you want to do anything to the outside of your property (eg, cut a tree down), you have to seek permission from the sub-division. There is genuinely a list of approved shades of paint that can be used. As a male, I thought there were only about 9 possible colours (black, white, red, blue, yellow, green, brown, orange and pink). This being America, there are far more choices available but you are restricted to painting your house using one of the approved hues. It is expected that you have high standards of garden/yard maintenance and most houses seem to outsource this to groups of people of Mexican-descent who descend on a property and tidy it up on weekly basis. There are also standards of behaviour that should be adhered to (eg, cars should be housed in garages at all times). As our goal is to integrate, we accept these rules and get on with life. The individualistic me however instinctively rails against the imposition of many of these standards. The little islander bit of me appreciates that everything is neat and tidy.

Every household pays a subscription each year for the services. It’s noteworthy that – in a country that typically fights against any tax increase (despite huge budget deficits) – people essentially volunteer to pay this tax (they could opt to live outside a sub-division). I think this may be because they can see the evident benefit they get for their money and know and trust the leaders elected to oversee the community.

The sub-division also creates a community, second perhaps only to that found at your church. As all those in the subdivision typically attend the same public schools, children build their initial friendship groups in these sub-divisions. Tennis teams for adults are formed around each sub-division. Children compete in regular swim-meets.

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The sub-division funds a life-guard for the community pool, so parents can send their children off to the pool without worry for their safety. We had imagined that the ice cream van was a peculiarly British icon, but as you can see from below they have them here too (and they really are vans here)

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A few years ago, I learnt that there was a TV channel called Adult Swim. I turned to it – incidentally, with great interest – and was disappointed to find that it was just an Atlanta-based cartoon network. Only since living in Atlanta have I realised that “Adult Swim” is what the lifeguard says when s/he goes for a break. Adult Swim has become synonymous with kids taking a break.

We are often told that USA is a classless-society where upward mobility from the bottom is a cornerstone of the American Dream. In recent years, you see fewer examples of this being true. For those who like data, you might want to view the Great Gatsby curve that plots intergenerational earnings elasticity against inequality here. One symptom of this can be seen in the subdivision, which classifies your wealth in an obvious way. Homes in sub-divisions are widely advertised as, for example, “From the 600s”, meaning that each home is valued from at least $600,000.

Most sub-divisions also provide meeting rooms and party venues. If you want to carry on your business from very near your home, it’s made very easy for you. You can rent an office or meeting room in your community. There are fairly regular sub-division events: garage sales for the whole subdivision; women’s clubs; and lots of pool parties. The sub-division also celebrates events, such as 4th July or High School Graduations (see picture below)

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