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Pocket Neighborhoods, The Latest Small-Scale Community Real Estate Trend

In his new book, Pocket Neighborhoods: Creating Small-Scale Community in a Large-Scale World (Taunton Press, 2011), architect and author Ross Chapin discusses the real estate trend of small community development.
This increasingly popular paradigm for local living seeks to fill the void left by globalization. Technology allows us to reach farther and faster in pursuit of getting our work done, but at the end of the day when we switch off our Android/iPhone/Blackberry, all we're left with is ourselves.

Pocket neighborhoods can be described as a collection of homes surrounding a "green" or landscaped common area. Homeowners maintain their individual privacy. At the same time, residing in a small community provides a wonderful added value: a real relationship with one's neighbors, a support system that cannot be achieved via emails and phone calls with far-flung family members and friends.

Sarah Susanka, the best-selling author and originator of the "Not So Big" philosophy of residential architecture, views this as a revolutionary approach to urban planning whose time has come. In her written foreword to Pocket Neighborhoods she notes, "Every few years a book comes along that profoundly shifts the way we think about a subject, and when we look back a decade or so after its publication, we see a dramatic shift brought about by the thoughts that book contains. I believe that the book you have in your hands right now is such a game changer."

"Floating Neighborhood" - Image Courtesy of Ross Chapin
Acting as the book's author and principal photographer, Chapin examines the Danish origins of pocket neighborhoods, as well the shapes that modern incarnations have come to take. "A Floating Neighborhood" in the Sausalito (image above) section of San Francisco, California (Chapter 10), is a collective of houseboats surrounding the "commons," aka, a dock.

The island cohousing layout found in Martha's Vineyard (Chapter 17), holds the land in highest regard. Sixteen houses and common facilities comprise a mere 15 percent of the allotted 37-acre parcel.

These small yet disparate communities are guaranteed to foster discussion about the ways in which live and use our resources, and our visions of an ideal community.
There may be a pocket neighborhood, or small-scale community where you live. Can you tell us about it?

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Ilyce R. Glink is the author of several books, including 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask and Buy, Close, Move In!. She blogs about money and real estate at and The Equifax Personal Finance Blog, and is Chief Content Strategist at, a community for real estate investors.