Changes in Neighborhoods, Changes in Neighbors

Or, Rich Folks Not Too Neighborly?

My neighborhood has changed drastically over the last two years. Across the street, there used to be a row of small ranch homes. And around the corner, another one. And while one can argue the costs and benefits of new housing structures, and how they change the neighborhood, there is another argument that I’m starting to think is valid.

Rich people are not good neighbors.

Why is that, you ask? I’ll tell you. Starting about two years ago, a builder started buying up all these properties. In that two years, the builder has torn down the five small ranch homes, and in their place, built five McMansions. All are priced north of $750K. Three of them have inhabitants, while the last two are being finished now.

Which is another bonus, of course, having the construction traffic and the noisy work site starting at 7 a.m. six days a week. Who doesn’t love loud noises at that time?

But, you know, whatever. Higher property values are good. Higher taxes, though, not so much. But still, economic activity requires change; towns and cities, like everything else, are either growing or dying, so ’tis better to be growing. Free markets rule, and all that.

The real problem I have is with the people that now live in the three new homes that are finished.

Not too neighborly. A little on the stuffy side, to be frank.

Oh, they do come out sometimes, to mow their perfect new sod, and trim their perfect new shrubs. They plant their new, cute little trees that provide no useful shade. Of course, the builder had to cut down 2 or 3 huge trees in order to build these huge houses.

Hey, look, I think there’s a leaf on your grass, pal, better get that off of there. Must keep Nature in its proper place!

They occasionally let their one kid (and yes, three houses, only one kid, so far) out into their yard for a few minutes a day, to relieve her from the boredom of roaming around inside a 4000 square foot mansion all day long. Really, can you imagine how big a house like that must feel to a two year old?

Usually when they drive by, they look straight ahead, never at me as I’m standing out in my driveway or yard.

I’m not being completely fair, here, of course. One couple does seem a little nicer than the other two, and actually waves when they drive by. Well, the young lady does, at least. And we haven’t exactly gone over with a big fruit basket — or a 12 pack — and a “welcome to the neighborhood” sign. Maybe I should do that, because for all I know, they think the same about us. But I sort of doubt that. By all available evidence, building bonds with their neighbors simply isn’t worth the time and effort to them.

Contrast this with the former neighbors we had, in those four little ranch homes.

(1) Bob and Sandy lived in the house directly across the street from us. An older black couple who had raised 3 or 4 kids in that tiny house, and were now retired. He was a former state trooper. Nicest guy you could ever meet, and had smiles and laughs for you no matter what you said to him. His wife Sandy was really friendly too. He had an old Fiero that he liked to tinker with sometimes. They moved to Florida in fall of 2004, just in time for the record hurricanes, and then they got the hell out of there and moved to Arizona. Saw them a few months ago when they stopped back in for a visit. It was good to see them again.

(2) Bob and Gail. Very good, genuine, down-to-earth people. Moved to Australia a few years ago. Three kids, and they were actually allowed to play in their yard. Fancy that! Sometimes the whole family would go for bike rides together. He gave me his lawnmower when they moved. When our youngest son was born, they gave us a blanket for him; he’s now almost five, and he still loves it. It’s his favorite thing in the whole world, and our neighbors gave it to us. It helps me keep them in my memory. They also stopped in for a visit about a year ago. And, in one of those big coincidences that makes me ponder divine intervention, Bob sent me and some other neighbors an email to catch up, while I was writing this post. They were also one of the key organizers of the annual block party.

(3) The third house was a couple I didn’t know all that well. They just sort of kept to themselves, which they have every right to do.

(4) And the last of the four couples, Tony and Lori. They were a little further away, so didn’t bump into them as much, but were still nice people. Lori in particular bonded with my wife; both had young children around the same age. Their house was on some low-lying ground though, and they decided to take the builder’s offer, and moved a mile away.

I especially miss the two Bobs and their families. They were the kind of people where you always felt better after talking to them. They enriched our lives in some small but vital way.

So, I have to wonder: do older, smaller, cheaper ranch-style homes seem to house nicer, friendlier, more neighborly people? I realize that a sample size of three is very small, but still … the trend is clearly heading that way. In my world, anyway.

Once again, the Law of Unintended Consequences raises its ugly head. And those unintended consequences are almost never good.

1 comment
  1. CGHill said:

    Of course they’re too busy to talk to the likes of you or me; they’re trying to figure out how in the bloody hell they’re going to make that $6000 mortgage payment.

    Fortunately for me, my neighborhood (by city ordinance) forbids teardowns if the new house will extend closer to the curb than the old one.