Housing Luncheon flyer

I Ask: Why Did You Chose To Live In Your Neighborhood?

I was invited to lend my voice to a panel at the Blogger Luncheon on Housing and Opportunity for Affordable Housing Awareness Week by Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME). I thought it was to give the zombie/alien perspective, but I was informed that I’m supposed to focus more on the family perspective. Oh well.

I was given a few questions to mull over before the event, and I immediately thought: I need to pick the brains of my smart, caring and fantastic readers. (that’s me totally buttering you up but also I really mean it)

Please answer 1, 2, or all the questions in the comments or email me (alex{at}lateenough{dot}com). You do NOT need to live in Richmond, Virginia to give an answer. These are questions families around the United States ask themselves everyday:

    1. How does the quality of housing and the neighborhood affect the family living there?
    2. What kind of home/neighborhood were you looking for when buying your house?
    3. What kind of neighborhood is best for raising kids?
    4. Does affordability prevent families from living in quality neighborhoods?
    5. What are some common neighborhood problems that need to be improved?

If you want to attend the forum, some great Richmond bloggers will be giving different perspectives on housing, and you will be able to ask questions.

Oh and I was told the questions would be moderated. I laughed and responded: I can’t think of a single question that would offend me. I’ve been told I’m going to hell, I’m the loneliest girl on the Internet and how sad it is that my children have me as a mother. I can’t imagine a  housing question that would hurt my feelings.

But if you want to test my resolve or just throw out an apocalypse question, I’d seriously love the (crazy) company.

The luncheon is on Tuesday, April 24 from 12-2 p.m. at 626 E. Broad Street, Suite 400, Richmond, VA 23219.

Please RSVP if you can come. Even if you can’t, your comments can so leave your thoughts. Also, feel free to share the flyer and this post.

Housing Luncheon flyer

I ask: Why did you chose to live in your neighborhood? (or answer any of the five questions above)

PS. For anyone new here, I used to do a “I ask advice” column weekly because I needed help. I still do (need the help), but I haven’t asked lately. I’m not sure why, but if you really miss it, let me know. Maybe I’ll start emailing you all my issues. Yay?

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents an 2 elementary age children, 4 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

22 thoughts on “I Ask: Why Did You Chose To Live In Your Neighborhood?

  1. We looked for our house for a year before we bought it. We were set on 2 Elementry schools, so we only looked at houses in those school districts. Even though we will try and get our kids into a Charter school, we wanted to make sure public would be an option. The house we bought is $100 more a month than our old rental. We made sure to stay in the same price that we were used to. It helps that South Texas has extreamly affordable housing market. It’s stayed pretty consistant here, even in the bubble. At least that’s what they tell me. Overall, we got lucky.

    1. 1. A poor quality house/apartment in a bad neighborhood would make anyone unhappy. But a great house in a good neighborhood with good schools will make a big difference in how the family sees life.

      2. We were looking for a 3BR house with a fenced backyard (dogs) in one of two school districts in Henrico. Bonus would’ve been near a park, near school and/or a lot of kids. We lucked out and found all of that.

      3. The best neighborhood for raising kids, assuming you’re living somewhere relatively safe, is one with a lot of kids. To me, it wouldn’t matter if the house was in a gated community, a townhouse row, apartment or single family home; as long as there are other kids for mine to play with. A place with good schools is a close second.

      4. Affordability is a HUGE problem. Whether we like to admit it or not, lower income neighborhoods have more crime; there’s also the fact that housing in those neighborhoods tends to be less than ideal. If you can’t afford the safety and good schools of the West End of Henrico, you have to settle for what you can afford, and in a lot of cases in Richmond, that means living in the courts. I’m sure no one would live in the courts if they could afford not to.

      5. The answer to that all depends on which neighborhood you’re in. Higher income neighborhoods might need to develop a better sense of “community” while lower income neighborhoods would need to reduce crime.

  2. Our housing situation is one of the serious banes of my existance. We bought right before the mortgage issues started happening and bought with the needs of a not-even-engaged couple in mind. We thought, at the longest, we’d be here with one small child. We looked for proximity to expressways, public services, social climate. Schools weren’t much of an issue. Well, now they are. And while they’re not terrible by any means, they’re not what I want for my kids. Sigh.

  3. I have never bought or tried to buy a home, so I’m not sure how helpful my comments will be. I live in Northern Virginia and everything is SO expensive! I definitely think affordability prevents families from living in quality neighborhoods- both renting and buying. Also, in all of the houses and apartments I’ve lived in (there have been many! my parents are divorced and both moved a lot when I was a kid), the major neighborhood problem was lack of community. I’ve never lived in a place where I knew all my neighbors and felt like we were a real community. I long for that and it’s what I would love to find when I buy a home someday!

    1. This was really helpful. I think we are all searching for a sense of community but I think very few neighborhoods actually have it (even if they’re considered to have it).

  4. We had to move from price-spiraling NoVA & had been told to look at Woodlake & Brandermill neighborhoods. We had a solid picture of the type of house we liked and wanted, and found them in spades in those areas. The things that appealed to us were the geography and overall natural setting (we’d done city life before), the reputation for the county’s schools, and the relative affordability of the homes (esp. compared to where we were leaving…again, drawing contrasts here for a reason!). We narrowed down on and selected our house based on some more practical considerations, such as a relatively flat lot, recent maintenance, walking proximity to elementary school, and the neighborhood being made up mostly of families with children from toddler to high-school ages.

    Affordability was a HUGE issue for us. The [3br/2.5ba w/ garage[ home we bought in Woodlake cost less than the [2br/2ba w/ finished basement] townhouse we sold in Alexandria. We went where we went because of the combination of homes we liked/needed and the affordable price points, but we also liked not being on or very near major roadways. We went someplace where we knew most of the neighbors had families. The compromise we made was my commute, which isn’t excessive but still is about 30min, and while we can walk to elementary school, we’re driving to get to anywhere else (where we lived previously, we had a great smaller shopping center just a 5-10min walk away from what was still a quiet, low traffic neighborhood).

    Let me know if you want more info.

  5. My family is “just me” and I haven’t (yet) bought a home, so take my answer for what they’re worth to you.

    When choosing a place to live, affordability was #1, and diversity was #2. I do not want to live in a neighborhood full of people who look and act like me. When/if I have kids, that would be an important factor.

    I think one of the biggest problems in a lot of neighborhood is the lack of community.

  6. We chose our house because we could afford it and it wasn’t gross.

    The neighborhood (subdivision) is full of young families and kids and it’s on the line of two school districts we really like.

    We don’t want to live here forever, but not because of the area. I mean, we have annoying neighbors, but the quality isn’t anything to panic about. Other than the neighbor who lets his kids climb all over their cars. I won’t let E play with them.

  7. I grew up in Richmond, but my husband and I were living in Northern VA and I was working in DC when we started having children. We moved back to Richmond when my second child was two months old because we thought we’d have more help since both of our families are here (somewhat wishful thinking) and it was a LOT more affordable a place to raise a family. Our neighborhood in NoVA was more like the Fan, where you could walk to neighborhood shops, coffee houses, restaurants, a playground, and I loved it! I still miss it.

    We moved to the near West End of Henrico County because of schools, plain and simple. We don’t have enough money for private schools, and I have some philosophical problems with private school anyway. We could have gotten more house for our money if we had moved out to the Far West End or one of the planned communities on the South Side of the river (Brandermill, Woodlake), but I don’t like being that far out, and I work downtown. Our house is so-so, but our lot is almost 1/2 acre, with all of the big backyard fenced in. It’s half woods and half lawn, and it’s totally what sold me on the house. The dogs love it, and when the kids were smaller, they could play back there without my having to be right next to them all of the time. Our street is very sparsely traveled, so the kids can ride their bikes and run back and forth to the neighbor kids’ houses. As long as they don’t go further than 2-3 blocks away (about 1/2 mile to the neighborhood park), they have carte blanche.

    The only time we walk there is for exercise, though — you have to drive to anything you want to do. That’s a drag, but I feel like we did the best we could to satisfy our need for good public schools without being too far away from the city infrastructure. We have a good neighborhood watch, most of the kids in that area belong to the same community pool and go to the same school, so the community feel is pretty good. Not as good as stoop-sitting and visiting with our neighbors in Alexandria, though.

  8. How does the quality of housing and the neighborhood affect the family living there?
    I think that a good neighborhood and house makes the family stronger. A sense of community goes a long way. When you are having trouble, it is important to have neighbors who you trust to help you and give you emotional support. For us, it has been a blessing to know that we can walk next door and someone would lend us a helping hand. The sense of safety and knowing that our neighbors are looking out for us and our house, which is wonderful when my husband has to leave town for work. It makes our family less stressed and we can just enjoy being together and not worry about the little stresses when life throws us a curve ball.
    What kind of home/neighborhood were you looking for when buying your house? The last time we bought we wanted a newer house with at least a bedroom for each of the kids and was in a good school district. Our first house was a 1930’s fixer upper that I loved, but my husband didn’t. Once we had kids we found that the constant little things that broke or needed refurbishing became more taxing on us. Having a girl and a boy, we felt strongly that they needed their own spaces. We also looked for a neighborhood that had lots of kids.
    What kind of neighborhood is best for raising kids? I think a neighborhood with a strong community ethic. I don’t think it needs to be a planned community or anything like that, but it needs to have a sense of community, where neighbors are around and reach out to each other. Our first house was in an older neighborhood, but the community was strong. People waved when you drove by and we would organize street parties and if you were working out in the yard, neighbors would stop to talk and check in with how we were doing. Our new neighborhood is the same way.
    Does affordability prevent families from living in quality neighborhoods? I think it used to be that way, but I think now recently you can get a nice house in a good neighborhood, if you are not choosy about the part of town you live in. I have always believed that just being able to say you are from a certain part of town is not enough. Some people were shocked when we chose to go to a more rural area, rather than the more favored area of town. When it came down to it, we did not want to deal with the traffic and wanted a place where we could slow down and our kids could grow up with horses down the road.
    What are some common neighborhood problems that need to be improved? I think that every neighborhood has issues with being too worried about what others are doing. I have never worried about the neighbor who left their trash can out on the street an extra day, or that had a yard that was more weeds than grass. If they were good people, why should I care if they were not the best gardeners. It boggles my mind when neighborhoods get all up in arms over things like flagpoles and boats sitting in driveways. I would rather have a neighbor who I could trust and know that they are looking out for us, than a neighbor who is worried about appearances and not about caring for the others in their neighborhood.

  9. We really wanted an older house…character, trees and yard. We really weren’t too concerned about the schools since we figured that was a bridge we’d cross when we got to it. We needed to stay within the county for my husband’s job. The craziest thing–we ended up in Lakeside with an 80-year-old house we fell in love with, massive back yard, 100 year old oak trees and a wonderful community.

    We choose this area for the trees but I also have all of the following within walking distance: a farmer’s market, restaurants, botanical gardens, consignment stores, a used book store and kiddos’ preschool. My son goes to one of the best elementary schools in the county and we’re zoned for the TAG middle school. And, come zombie/alien apocalypse, we’ve got multiple escape routes straight out of the city! Really, the only downside is the lack of sidewalks. :)

  10. What kind of home/neighborhood were you looking for when buying your house? We were looking for decent square footage with a yard bigger than a postage stamp, and good schools. We lived in a condo in Glen Allen before moving to a home, so naturally I wanted to stay in that general area, but finding the first two aforementioned requirements was next to impossible for a price we could afford (we bought in 2004 at almost the peak of the real estate boom). So, we ended up close in, in Hanover. So glad we did! Our home is plesant, our yard huge, and the schools are awesome.
    3.What kind of neighborhood is best for raising kids? Quiet, with other kids for my only child to play with.
    4.Does affordability prevent families from living in quality neighborhoods? Sure! See above, #2
    5.What are some common neighborhood problems that need to be improved? This is probably minor, but we live on kind of a straight away part in our neighborhood and people love to step on the gas right as they drive past our house. Usually not a problem, but is a concern, since my daughter likes to ride her bike out in the neighborhood.

  11. 1. We recently moved, and there were a few “different” things we looked for. After living in “yuppyville” for 2 years, we needed out, we don’t fit in there. My husband is a bit of a metalhead, and I’m kind of punk rock, so we needed a place full of “real” people and less cardboard cutouts of thier neighbors/parents. I wanted schools that understood that some kids struggle with things like reading and spelling, and that doesn’t mean you make a mother cry over life choices she had to make at a school meeting. A place where teachers could spare 5 minutes to help a child out, rather than worrying thier SoL scores.

    2. I kind of resent that fact that homeowners are the representation of Housing, when in reality far more people rent. We wanted space to roll around in, without having to cut corners elsewhere in out budget. My only requirement was 2 bathrooms, where my husband wanted some sort of office. We both agreed that our oldest (10) shouldn’t have to share a bedroom with his brother (2). I wanted a place with kids, and lots of them, from all walks of life. My kids don’t see color, they don’t care if your purple, as long as you can ride a bike and possibly sleep over.

    3. In my opinion the best place for kids is in a community. I know your looking for more out of that statement, “a commuinity that/with/has” but no, just a community. A place where your neighbors say hello, or tap on the door to let you know they are grilling and grab something to add to the impromptu get together. A place where someone might call you to let you know your child is doing something less than civilized. So many of us get caught trying to “mind our own business”, that we forget how our mother knew everything we did…That’s because Miss so&so from down the street saw us, and called Mom. I need that, I have most of it, still missing some, but unless I move back to that small town without a stop light, don’t think I’m going to get it again.

    4. It’s unfortunate but yes it does, and it doesn’t always mean how much you make. For a lot of us we make pretty decent money, but there never seems to be enough. Our income is close to 6 figures, doesn’t mean we have money in the mattress for a rainy day, means we have more bills usually :P Before moving to VA, I had a duplex (rented) in a great neighborhood, with wonderful schools, in the middle of the city…with utilities included, all for $950 a month. When I got to VA, it was 2 bedroom apartment with nothing included and less space for $1300 a month, and all we really got was the ability to say we live in Twin Hickory.

    5. This all depends on where you are, and how old you are…as I get older I find myself more annoyed with the kids racing through the streets, when not so long ago, that was me. Or the yapping dog, or the guy who insists on cutting the grass at 8 in the morning on a saturday. But these aren’t really issues with the neighborhood, they are issues with the people in the neighborhood. But I’m not afraid to tell that girl to get off her cell phone and watch for kids playing, or ask my neighbor if he wants me to walk his dog during the day while he’s at work, or realize that 8am on a saturday may not be optimal, but now I can work in my garden before the day gets too warm.

  12. Having kids has meant that schools are essential in where to live. Commute time is also a big deal. If work is an hour away, time as a family would be nearly impossibly during the week. But neither of those are enough if the house doesn’t meet your needs.

    Community is essential, but how does community grow? Can you look at a house and know if it’s conducive to community? Or do you need to live in the area? In my opinion, a mix of generations is wonderful and kids around for your kids is great – but it doesn’t matter if no one goes out in the front yards. Dog walking, park playing, just porch sitting – the more activity in the front yards, sidewalks, streets, the better. You have to feel safe outside. And it’s nice if it’s pretty. Having places to walk is good too.

  13. 1) How does the quality of housing and the neighborhood affect the family living there? The higher quality of housing attracts a higher standard of living. Those who live in higher-quality neighborhoods want to keep it safe and beautiful and work together to do so.
    2) What kind of home/neighborhood were you looking for when buying your house? I look for one with great schools, a family atmosphere (places for kids to play) and low crime rates. Well-kept yards and homes.
    3) What kind of neighborhood is best for raising kids? (Same as the answer above)
    4) Does affordability prevent families from living in quality neighborhoods? Yes, it definitely does.
    5) What are some common neighborhood problems that need to be improved? Crime, abandoned lots and homes, poor upkeep/ curb appeal.

  14. 1. Neighborhoods and housing quality can be a real concern when it comes to safety and over all life satisfaction. Run down areas can make you worry about crime (whether there is crime occurring or not), being out at night, letting your children play outside, etc. A woman I know lives in a nice neighborhood, but some drug users moved in next door to her and after a while there were people lingering around her yard and she started finding used needles on her property. Run down and empty buildings can also be dangerous for kids who go exploring.

    2. It took us a while to find our house. We wanted something with space because we have three dogs and one in particular that likes to bark. We wanted to be in a rural area because we figured neighbors would be more acomodating to dogs and kids. Our daughter was under a year old and so I don’t think we considered her as much as we should have. Every other house on our road is inhabited by senior citizens. She probably won’t have anyone to play with in the neighborhood and so that is a major negative.

    3. I would choose a neighborhood with lots of younger families. Having parents and children available to play with and help be the village that raises your child would be a major plus. I am finding that out now and wish I had thought ahead better before we bought the house.

    4. Yes. It’s expensive to buy a house period let alone one in a “nice” area. There are many additional expenses people do not consider such as taxes, utilities, and sometimes housing association fees.

    5. I’d say people driving too fast through residential areas, access to parks and playgrounds, open spaces for kids to play so they aren’t in the streets playing, problems with mean dogs or other animals (we’ve had kids attacked by pitbulls while waiting for the bus), and help for the disabled and elderly who have trouble maintaining their yards or structures to keep them safe.

  15. Not sure if this is useful but having a Colombian perspective might give you a nice international vibe.
    1) (I think you mean this) The quality of the housing affects the overall aesthetic of the neighborhood as well as the possible impact of time and adverse conditions such as storms or earthquakes (a biggie down here), so a neighborhood with houses built with good materials, aside from being pretty, will be less likely to crumble in the event of a storm, making it safer for inhabitants and neighbors. My shingle won’t fall on me or you, and that is good for both of us.
    2) I wanted something with families and adults, preferably older ones because they would be less likely to have raves and parties. We lived in a modern apartment in a posh neighborhood in Bogota because it was cool and close to my husband’s job but after I found used condoms on the sidewalk and broken bottles in the park, I decided I was just not a posh person and headed for the hills. Literally. We moved to a small township about 45 minutes from his office but with a huge yard, neighbors with dogs and only birds waking us up at 5 am.
    3) I think parks are important. Not only to they provide a place to play and socialize but also offer a sense of community. Lots and lots of green.
    4) YES.
    5) Communication, apathy. People do not talk to their neighbors anymore. People die and nobody notices. Modern life is all about not needing the person next to you. We order in, we take the elevator to the car and then to work and never interact. I think promoting human contact can go miles making neighborhoods, and by extension, cities and countries, a better place.

    Too sappy? Hope this helps.
    We live in the city of Chía, in the State of Cundinamarca, in case you need to cite your source ;)

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