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So Just What Is A Good Neighborhood? And What Makes A Neighborhood Bad
Old 04-22-2013, 08:47 AM   #1
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So Just What Is A Good Neighborhood? And What Makes A Neighborhood Bad

This is from a blog I subscribed. Given that many people on the site relocate, I thought you might find it interesting.

So Just What Is A Good Neighborhood? And What Makes A Neighborhood Bad?


At the sleepy little burg where I work, I often get calls from people who are moving into the area and want to know "What's a good neighborhood?". I then inform them that I can't give them a subjective opinion about a neighborhood or characterize it as good or bad.

I then explain to them that the opinions we form about a place are largely based on our personal experiences. That someone who grew up in a one stop-light town in Montana will make judgements about the safety of a neighborhood differently than someone who grew up in Camden, New Jersey. For me to give an opinion would be a losing proposition. I do point them to our online crime map where they can conduct a more objective analysis of the community.

There was a very interesting piece over at The Atlantic Cities that looks at Why People Perceive Some Cities as Safer Than Others. In the story was this bit:
Interestingly, while Gallup finds a substantial connection between crime and safety, the results of Mellander's analysis are mixed on this score. According to Gallup: "Though crime statistics are not available for all MSAs, there is a strong negative correlation (-.64) between the FBI's 2010 violent crime rate for an MSA and the percentage of the MSA residents who report feeling safe -- with the cities where residents feeling safest having lower crime rates, and vice versa." Mellander's analysis picks up a similar negative correlation (-.63) between perceptions of safety and gun murders (homicide only, not including suicide) per capita. But she finds no statistically significant association between perceived safety and a range of crime per capita measures based on the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, including for violent crime and property crime.
Via The Atlantic Cities

So maybe it's not just crime statistics that affect our perceptions of the safety of our communities. In fact, the article points to the study's conclusions of what makes a community feel safe. Hit the link to read the whole story.
Posted by Scott Dickson at 6:00 AM
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Old 04-22-2013, 10:37 AM   #2
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I don't know about other communities, but it is well known that my local law enforcement under-reports or recharacterizes crimes into lesser crimes when reporting them to the FBI. This is not unheard of and is done for political reasons.

According to the FBI statistics, my neighborhood here in New Orleans is one of the safest in the universe. There have been numerous murders and assaults within a mile of me in the past couple of years, and that has been the case for decades. However, the FBI statistics do not agree with other reports of these crimes.
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Old 04-22-2013, 11:24 AM   #3
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IMHO- A "good" neighborhood is where you fit in. One man's paradise can be another's purgatory. Like living in a planned golf community if you have no interest in the game. Or living in an upscale 'keeping up with the Joneses' area where everyone spends their last dime chasing status symbols when you have more simple tastes (& perhaps more $$ ).

Agree 100% FBI Stats do not tell the story on crime, if only because reporting from police agencies is voluntary (thus inconsistent). Perception of crime seems worse when it is higher than where someone lived before, or commonly involves random innocent victims.
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Old 04-22-2013, 11:29 AM   #4
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Apart from whether or not it personally "feels" like a fit, I can think of three things that can define a "bad" neighborhood in my mind. Sometimes they go hand-in-hand, but not necessarily:

1) Neighborhood crime rates, both actual published and perceived;

2) A blighted neighborhood where the residents don't care about the upkeep of it;

3) Nuisance neighbors who frequently throw loud parties, "share" loud music booming from their car stereos, constantly having a lot of people coming and going, that sort of thing.
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Old 04-22-2013, 11:30 AM   #5
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I'd have to agree it's largely 'in the eye of the beholder.' I've lived around Chicago for the past 20 years, and it's described as seriously 'unsafe' from time to time. Last year it was widely reported Chicago had 'a record murder rate.' But like any big city, there are (large) perfectly safe areas, and other areas unfortunately I simply would not go to at night if at all. I've been in Chicago at all hours, without any fear of being victimized. I am sure the same can be said of every major, or even medium sized city to some extent.

We think we'd like to try an urban setting on our next move, but most people still seem to prefer suburban, and others like rural. We like being in or near major cities, but we know lots of people who love very small towns where everyone knows everyone. Different strokes...
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Old 04-22-2013, 11:43 AM   #6
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Crime stats are all that contribute to making neighborhood good or bad. All sorts of other factors contribute. And, as others point out, a lot of this is in the mind of the beholder. I like living in urban centers which lots of others abhor because of perceived crime. I watch Breaking Bad and assume the boonies are full of meth labs.
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Old 04-22-2013, 11:53 AM   #7
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We think we'd like to try an urban setting on our next move, but most people still seem to prefer suburban, and others like rural. We like being in or near major cities, but we know lots of people who love very small towns where everyone knows everyone. Different strokes...
To me, the noise of urban settings is pretty much a deal-breaker. In reality I'd love to live in the impossible: A quiet, safe and walkable neighborhood where you don't need a car -- that is affordable.

Quiet, walkable, affordable.... pick any two...

So as a result, it's a matter of making compromises and deciding on which of these factors can "give" the most.
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Old 04-22-2013, 11:54 AM   #8
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IMHO- A "good" neighborhood is where you fit in. One man's paradise can be another's purgatory. Like living in a planned golf community if you have no interest in the game. Or living in an upscale 'keeping up with the Joneses' area where everyone spends their last dime chasing status symbols when you have more simple tastes (& perhaps more $$ ).

Agree 100% FBI Stats do not tell the story on crime, if only because reporting from police agencies is voluntary (thus inconsistent). Perception of crime seems worse when it is higher than where someone lived before, or commonly involves random innocent victims.
Agree. Fit is the key.

Smal towns tend to have less crime, downside is everbody knows everybody else's business or at least tries to. OTOH for major league entertainment of any sort be it music, opera or sports a good bit of travel is involved to the various venues.

For muggers and thieves a good neighborhood is full of easy targets.
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Old 04-22-2013, 12:05 PM   #9
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To me, the noise of urban settings is pretty much a deal-breaker. In reality I'd love to live in the impossible: A quiet, safe and walkable neighborhood where you don't need a car -- that is affordable.

Quiet, walkable, affordable.... pick any two...
'zactly! We've never lived anywhere except suburbs for our entire lives, so we hope to rent in an urban area for a year first. Who knows, we may find we hate it...
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Old 04-22-2013, 12:23 PM   #10
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When I was shopping for my very first house to buy I finally had to explain to the realtor that my deal breaker was dead cars on the front lawn. I didn't mind quirky neighbors... but if an obviously non-functioning car was parked where grass was (and weeds coming up out of the car - within a block or so of the house - I wasn't interested.

For some- HOAs take care of that. I have friends who would never live in a neighborhood that didn't have HOAs to enforce proper curb appeal. Me, eh... not so much...

For some a "nice" neighborhood is based on how expensive the neighborhood is. In San Diego - there are some very expensive... not so good... neighborhoods.

I wish my neighborhood was more walkable (only gets a walk score of mid-50's.) But the neighbors are friendly, most of the neighbors keep up their homes, and the schools are good.
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Old 04-22-2013, 01:10 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by ERhoosier View Post
IMHO- A "good" neighborhood is where you fit in. One man's paradise can be another's purgatory. Like living in a planned golf community if you have no interest in the game. Or living in an upscale 'keeping up with the Joneses' area where everyone spends their last dime chasing status symbols when you have more simple tastes (& perhaps more $$ ).

Agree 100% FBI Stats do not tell the story on crime, if only because reporting from police agencies is voluntary (thus inconsistent). Perception of crime seems worse when it is higher than where someone lived before, or commonly involves random innocent victims.
Yes...where I fit in. I like my neighborhood - rural because I like to listen to the crickets at night...And, see the stars with minimal light pollution. My neighborhood has: a "good ol' boy and his family," a family that raises angus beef, a family with teenagers, a gay couple, and a (legal) pot farmer. Down the trail is the blended family with artists and organic farmers. There are no all-night barking dogs around here thank goodness. Most of the lots are 5 to 20 acres. All of our neighbors, to my knowledge are home-owners.

A "bad" neighborhood has crime, meth labs, crowding, lots of rules and people to enforce them. Every town has it's own spirit - I can intuit which ones where I would feel comfortable.
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Old 04-22-2013, 01:21 PM   #12
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One big factor for me and a few people I know is how much interaction you have to have with your neighbors and community. A friend of mine and her husband went and bought a house with no yard, on a marsh so no one could build around them, and relatively far from any other houses, because all they wanted to do was be left alone. Another friend thought that was absolutely insane, because she couldn't do without making friends with all of their neighbors and the social aspect of it all.

I'm at the point in my life where I'm in between. I want to live close enough to people that they could call the fire department or police if something terrible was going on at my house, but I want virtually no interaction whatsoever outside of those emergencies with said people :P That'll be something I look for when looking for a home.
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Old 04-22-2013, 01:21 PM   #13
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Neighbors.
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Old 04-22-2013, 01:34 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by rodi View Post
When I was shopping for my very first house to buy I finally had to explain to the realtor that my deal breaker was dead cars on the front lawn. I didn't mind quirky neighbors... but if an obviously non-functioning car was parked where grass was (and weeds coming up out of the car - within a block or so of the house - I wasn't interested.

For some- HOAs take care of that. I have friends who would never live in a neighborhood that didn't have HOAs to enforce proper curb appeal. Me, eh... not so much...
Having a HOA is a deal breaker for me. I would never buy a house in a neighborhood that has a HOA. My neighborhood was built in 1972, has no HOA, and is in unincorporated county. Since around the year 2000, my neighborhood has been slowly surrounded by new neighborhoods that are 3 to 5 times higher in price, and that all have HOAs. So my neighborhood is the 'black sheep' of the area, with lots of dandelions, different colored houses, and RV and work truck parking.
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Old 04-22-2013, 01:36 PM   #15
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It was interesting when we moved from the burbs to the city. Many friends were concern/afraid to come into the neighborhood to visit us. While we were more careful than we were while living in the suburbs, we never felt unsafe. And, nothing has ever happen to us in terms of crime.

It is interesting that my city neighbors always felt very safe and did not understand the 'exaggerated' concerns of many people from the burbs. Most of our neighbors have not been victimized, at least any more than their suburban counterparts. They go out everyday for work, play, dog walking shopping etc. I do not know why the perceptions (and in my opinion reality is so different) but it is really different. Personally, as compared to my suburban friends, I am much more relaxed in those neighborhoods that are perceived by many of them as crime ridden.
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Old 04-22-2013, 02:38 PM   #16
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I've lived in the suburbs most of my life. But I always dreamed of being walking distance to shops, restaurants, etc. I finally realized my dream here in my suburb not far from Oakland and SF. I can walk to 4 different grocery stores, tons of restaurants, and more importantly, the bead and fabric stores! And a 10 minute walk to BART. Plus easy access to east bay hiking trails. I just got gas for the first time in 3 weeks. I'm renting now, couldn't afford to buy a house in this location. But I have a little garden space so I'm a happy camper.
BTW, one of my favorite urban neighborhoods is the Back Bay in Boston. My son lived there for 5 years, in school at BU and out, just moved last year. My favorite place to stay while visiting him was the Lenox Hotel, right between the two bombings. What a great neighborhood--very safe but still very urban with gorgeous brownstones and the river right there. You can walk everywhere in Boston. Really missed it this past week. Can't wait to go back.
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Old 04-22-2013, 04:53 PM   #17
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Apart from whether or not it personally "feels" like a fit, I can think of three things that can define a "bad" neighborhood in my mind. Sometimes they go hand-in-hand, but not necessarily:



3) Nuisance neighbors who frequently throw loud parties, "share" loud music booming from their car stereos, constantly having a lot of people coming and going, that sort of thing.
That's my neighborhood. There is a softball field 300 yards away or so that host tournaments on weekends. Sometimes loud music is played that literally rattles the windows. Doesn't happen that often, but a unpleasant when it does.

One of my neighbors has me chalked up as a bad neighbor I guess. A couple of weekends ago I went out of town for a few days. I left at 9:00am leaving my dog in the backyard. I had a dog friendly neighbor set up to come over at 11:00am to put him in the house and was suppose to come back late in the afternoon to feed him and let him out for a potty break. Well it was such a pretty day the dog sitter decided to put him out again around 2:00pm for another 2-3 hour yard break. Apparently he barked some as a neighbor left a note on the door asking if I could do something with my dog as he barks all day everyday. Which is impossible as he is normally only out maybe 1 hour per day in the backyard. And if he starts to bark, I either bring him in or quite him down.

Funny how others play loud music or have full time outside barking dogs yet I get a note. Think I will be moving to the country one day.
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Old 04-22-2013, 05:22 PM   #18
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Much of what goes into what someone would call a good neighborhood is personal taste. Walk scores are interesting, but really, spend a week where you are thinking of going and you'll know far more about walking around than a walk score will tell you.

To me, 2 things are more easily scored objectively-crime and school quality. Very difficult to get what you need to know out of a real estate agent, as they are reasonably enough afraid of various accusations.

Most city neighborhoods have daily or almost daily blogs for that neighborhood. This is a good place to get some crime data. Also, some police departments, notably San Francisco do an excellent job of publishing crime maps. This isn't the same as crime rates, but it often gives some information.

IMO, there are very few big city urban neighborhoods where it is exactly intelligent to walk around at 1AM. People do it all the time, and they rarely get whacked. But it happens, and you don't want it to happen to you.

Generally in an urban neighborhood you are pretty safe in your condo or upscale apartment, it would be hard for a bad guy to get to you. Much harder than in a typical sfh neighborhood. The difficulty is more apt to be on the street, or in bars, and in the better neighborhoods it is uncommon. But armed robberies are not certainly not unknown in areas where condos cost $300K and up, and homes $1mn+.

The best public high school in Seattle (city) is generally taken to be Garfield, which is a very diverse school in a neighborhood that has its share of gangs and such. Garfield also draws from wealthy areas nearby. Seattle may have very expensive neighborhoods right next to much rougher ones. I don't know how Garfield does what it does, but I think one would have to go to cities across Lake Washington to get better high schools-and only the best over there are better as far as student testing, qualifying for different Advanced Placement etc., is concerned.

Basically I believe that on the ground research is needed to give an accurate picture. And of course these things are always changing. While I was reading online about the bombing last week, I looked up al the addresses where I had lived in Boston. Petty much all in Back Bay, and all lovely. But I also took a look at prices of condos and houses in a few other neighborhoods. Was I floored by South Boston! Never a slum, but when I was in Boston it was a pretty rough working class neighborhood. Now it is totally in vogue. And it is easy to see why. Very close to downtown and the financial district, reasonable MBTA service, and not so rough as to make it hard for gentrification to get started.

Ha
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Old 04-22-2013, 05:43 PM   #19
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IMO, there are very few big city urban neighborhoods where it is exactly intelligent to walk around at 1AM.
+1

I don't leave the house alone after dark to walk around or go for a drive. Frank does both, but his neighborhood is a little better than mine and he is unusually tough and street savvy for a man in his 50's. We live in an older, inner suburb that is fairly built up and urban as suburbs go. I hate restricting my walking like this, but that's just the way it has to be.
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Old 04-22-2013, 06:48 PM   #20
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A good neighborhood for me offers quiet, privacy, safety, and is located less than 1 hour away from a large city.

Quiet is very important for me. Right now I live in a very noisy neighborhood (constant street noise mostly but the neighbors at least are quiet). It took me a while to get used to it, and I had to sometimes resort to wearing my noise-canceling headphones for hours at a time in order to take a break from it all. Privacy is important as well. I want to be able to enjoy both indoors and outdoors away from prying eyes. Safety is key of course, although I rarely feel unsafe, even in large cities. Finally, I do enjoy the kind of infrastructure offered by larger cities (transportation, healthcare, culture, etc...), so I don't want to live in the boonies either. In summary, a country setting close to a big city would be ideal for me, I think.
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