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Considering Retirement in a Pocket Neighborhood?

Category: Retirement Real Estate

Updated March, 2022 (originally September 28, 2016) — This website absolutely gets so many great article ideas from our Members and visitors. A perfect illustration was the suggestion which we had from 2 different members, huntley61 and janeAnn, to explore the idea of retiring in a pocket community. Thanks to all!

What is a Pocket Neighborhood?
The most common characteristic of a pocket neighborhood is a small group of homes and other type residences sharing a common, open space area. That space might be for gardens, pedestrian walkways, shared yards, or something else. The idea is to promote a close knit sense of community and neighborliness with an increased level of contact. Instead of a sterile parking lot as a common area, these usable public spaces belong to everyone who lives in that neighborhood. While the name and the communities are new, the idea is old and traditional – villages and city neighborhoods in Europe and New England (think homes clustered along the green) have had the same thing going for centuries. Pocket neighborhoods exist in a variety of environments – rural, in cities, or even the suburbs. Another aspect of pocket neighborhoods is that they are small scale – maybe 12 homes max (although many pocket neighborhoods might be linked together by walkways). Homes are usually smaller and closer together than in existing towns and suburbs. The movement is in some ways an extension of residential cluster housing, where a group of homes might be built on fairly large piece of property, but the homes are close together to create large common spaces.

Are pocket neighborhoods good for retirement and those 55+?
While we are aware of only a few pocket neighborhoods built expressly for those 55+, many baby boomers are interested enough in the idea to move into one. One attraction is the idea of living next to and relating to people of all ages, not just older people. In these shared settings neighbors get to know one another; children learn to appreciate their empty nester or single neighbors, families enjoy people of all ages, and retirees feel like they have not been put in a ghetto. One possibility for retirement is the idea of building your own pocket neighborhood with like-minded friends. Zoning issues can be difficult, but not impossible. But the idea of shared resources and known neighbors might make that effort worth it (see Cohousing).

Third Street Cottages on Whidbey Island, Wash.  Photo courtesy of Wikipedia and Jtmorgan

Third Street Cottages on Whidbey Island, Wash. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia and Jtmorgan Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0/

Pocket neighborhoods are intentionally designed to afford opportunities for chance meetings – parking areas and/or garages are usually located away from the homes to necessitate a short walk through common areas. Mailboxes are often clustered in a central spot to insure that neighbors have a chance for interaction. But privacy is important too. Homes are oriented to offer several layers of privacy, such as low fences, private outdoor areas, and some windows facing walls without windows.

These highly social neighborhoods are promoted as an alternative to the sprawl, isolation, expense, and commuter and automobile focus of many larger homes in suburban developments. Ross Chapin Architects apparently coined the term, and specialize in Pocket Neighborhoods. One of the first was the Third Street Cottages on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound. On their website you can find photos and information on at least 15 of their projects including Conover Common Cottages in Redmond.This is a great source for finding out more details about Pocket Neighborhoods.

The downsides
Living in a pocket neighborhood is not for everyone. If you crave privacy and don’t like running into your neighbors, stay away. Homes tend to be smaller. And most of these communities are all ages, so if you only want to be the 55+ crowd you won’t be happy.

Where can you find pocket neighborhoods
Because of their small scale, pocket neighborhoods do not tend to attract developers with big advertising budgets. So you might have to seek them out yourself. Audubon Circle in Boston is one, identified by 20 sculpted bird silhouettes over one of the city’s busiest intersections. A small neighborhood in Fife has a pocket neighborhood of 12 homes built in the 1930s. Although only 2 of the communities profiled on Topretirements are identified as Pocket Neighborhoods, we hope more are added. Those include Concord Riverwalk in Boston and Vandalia Cottages in Franklin, Tennessee. You can also search under Residential Cluster Development to find similar type neighborhoods. And of course if you use Topretirement’s Advanced Search you can search for pocket neighborhoods, where there are about 70 listed (some communities might have a lose definition of the term).

For further reading
Tiny Homes blog post
Wikipedia on Pocket Neighborhoods
AARP on Pocket Neighborhoods
Residential cluster housing

Comments? Have you thought about living in a pocket neighborhood, or had experience with one. Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on September 27th, 2016


  1. A link to several current pocket neighborhood projects:

    by Jan Cullinane — September 28, 2016

  2. Sorry if this is off topic, but why must you figure out what your TR password is to comment on one of the places of the day? Perhaps that is why the information about places sometimes amkes little sense, the people who live there are unable to make comments.

    Admin Comment: Good question Sandie, we want everyone to have an easy time posting their Comments. You DON’T need to login to make a Comment on the Blog, although if you are not logged in the Comment might have to be approved before it shows up (if we don’t we are overwhelmed with Spam). You do need to login to the Forum to make a post. If you can’t remember your password, you can reset it anytime at the Login link (new password will be sent to email address you registered with).

    by Sandie — September 28, 2016

  3. Pocket neighborhoods seem sensible for those looking to find “community” in their living arrangements. As a kid I lived in a southern California compound that had a flavor of commonality in its design. Children were safe in the green space out front, neighbors walked to visit, and the automobile was around back and out of the way. Years later I worked rebuilding an older section of Louisville, KY that had the same style but was circa 1940s. Both were very cool for being neighborly…..As an “oldster” we tried finding a similar type of neighborhood in the Florida panhandle. We wanted children, working families, and buses stopping for school kids. Our main complaints don’t seem to have an answer even with an HOA. #1 are renters (sorry if that sounds cruel) without involvement, #2 is the automobile, i.e., speeding, texting, noise. We see a dismal future as we grow older but right now it is pretty nice.

    by Gregory — September 28, 2016

  4. Interesting article on the pocket neighborhoods. The link for the one in Franklin didn’t work, but I did see enough info though to see it’s out of our price range as retirees. Homes starting in the 200’s? NOT

    by Donna — September 29, 2016

  5. A clustered safe neighborhood, walkable, near a larger city for shopping-services-airport-medical facilities …. perfect! Such a setting would be ideal for my lifestyle. I’m disappointed there aren’t more. As a single 67yo female, I still enjoy greatly activities and engaging socially with others of all ages. I attend local high school sports events, watching marching bands, concerts, plays, volunteering, tutoring, baking for fund raisers. Can lend a helping hand to a mother needing a couple more to wrangle a child too wiggly to sit through it all quietly. (Makes me feel connected in the absence of my own grandchildren and helpful as well.)
    I’ve lived in and near many 55+ communities which too often are populated with too few near the 55 mark and too many on the further end … hence community activities and restrictions heavily leaning toward those who seem to seek the silent environment of a nursing home yet with individual units. However the pricing I’ve been able to determine so far in the few pocket neighborhoods I’ve researched have all been above my comfort level and more square footage than I need. I recognize they are also being built for growing families, but a few 1-2 bedroom units sprinkled in would be a nice mix for singles of any age.
    I hope you continue to follow up on such developments and make the locations known for, as you already noted, they aren’t well advertised.
    Thank you for presenting another good option for retirement!

    by BarbT — September 29, 2016

  6. Builders just don’t get the concept. They still think everybody is a family with 2 or more kids. And that people our age don’t mind endless stairs. When I was looking to build a townhouse 24 years ago, single-level townhomes were almost an unknown concept. Guess what? They still are.

    by Linda — September 29, 2016

  7. There are several smaller single family home floorplans in the planned community of Estrella Mountain Ranch in Goodyear, AZ (in the $200’s). Have a looksee at their website. :o)

    by Jess — September 29, 2016

  8. I love the idea of pocket neighborhoods, cohousing, etc. However, as others have noted, houses starting in the $200s are totally out of reach.

    I foresee my retirement community as a mobile-home park (step above “trailer park”) if these communities don’t hurry up & start planning for & making homes available to low to moderate income residents – including long-term rentals of decent places with enough closets! (And pet-friendly.) In or very close to a good city with good weather & good healthcare would be perfect. I’ll be needing that place soon, like Feb. or Mar. 2017!!

    Lots of us are single, living on social security with minimal savings & not much family to lean on. Where are we supposed to live when we no longer bring in a full regular income and want to live somewhere other than our current locations? Pocket neighborhoods & cohousing are ideal – if you have money.

    Maybe a bunch of us should get together, make a plan & get a grant to be a demonstration of low-to-moderate income senior or mixed housing designrd by the residents for the residents. Otherwise, trailer parks will be overflowing into tent cities with retirees & others unable to afford other places to live! (And refusing to live in SRO hotels or shabby, broken-down Section 8/HUD housing – which have long waiting lists in many places anyhow.)

    And maybe websites & magazines like this one purporting to help retirees or near-retirees find their next home should start providing info on places accepting renters, or with manufactured homes at modest cost. There’s a market, you know.

    by Mindy M. — October 15, 2016

  9. Yes, I agree Mindy, this is going to be a huge problem in the near and distant future as many boomers want this but cannot afford the new development prices. The co-housing option does seem to help as they can be their own contractors and not pay the developer margins. And they can design the community the way the group desires. This is a very interesting concept. I live in the Triangle NC and I know of two cohousing groups currently being formed. It has been a joy to watch them come together.

    by huntley — October 17, 2016

  10. You said it right, Mindy! One big problem I see is local zoning codes that often prohibit mobile/manufactured home developments. Personally, I think they should be a huge part of senior housing, especially for low to middle income folks. There is a nicely maintained 55+ park locally. Even tho’ there are older homes for sale for reasonable prices, the monthly space rent is exhorbitant – $800. So when everything is added up, living there isn’t cheap! Too bad. Laney

    by Laney — October 18, 2016

  11. Pocket neighborhoods have not typically been designed for 55+, but one option I’ve seen is in Clayton, NC where the homes start in the 290s. They have a combination of pocket and boulevard homes, with alley-fed garages and ranch-style living, from what they say, they have designed the neighborhood to really focus on community and activity. Here’s the link: Full front porches made for Southern living and friends with fans standard. I also really like their fixed pricing. They have three prices per home, depending on the finish level, and you can design your home online. Very cool way to buy! Not the bait-and switch of other communities I’ve seen.

    by Craig — January 11, 2017

  12. Craig the homes are lovely but too large–all are three bedrooms. So much for downsizing. Not even two bedroom two bath! I do think the designs are unique and homey which says a lot. I hate cookie cutter communities. This looks like a great place for those who need that much space.

    by Jennifer — January 12, 2017

  13. Mobile home parks have a lot of things to be considered. My friend lives in one and pays around $580 a month and gets sewer, garbage pick up but has to pay for water, snow plowing/shoveling and mowing. Her yard is very small and her mobile home (MH) is older and she has had to put money into it like a new roof and some things inside. Plus, a water leak buckled her floors and she had to have several rooms floors replaced. Her insurance paid for several problems. I keep thinking about selling my house to move into a MH but to pay almost $7,000 a year for a postage stamp lot is not appealing. My taxes for my home are $5,000+ and to go from a home to a MH and spend more makes no sense. Her MH park has a community hall and a swimming pool which she never uses. Way too many kids use the pool. Plus, at times she has undesirable neighbors who junk up the place and have to be reminded by management to get rid of the junk. She has to pay extra money to have dogs and has to pay something like $25 per dog per month. She isn’t retired yet and is worried about making ends meet. The one good thing about a MH is that you don’t have a neighbor living above, below or beside you to hear through the walls. I have considered buying a building lot to put a MH on to avoid paying lot rent. Still would cost a bit to put in a well and septic system if no city services are available.

    by Louise — January 12, 2017

  14. Lousie, be careful, if a mobile home park is too cheap, then you may get undesirable neighbors for the same reasons. Try to find a community with a high standard of admission and maintenance where all the homes are of a similar standard. MH parks can be junky and overrun with many people who have no idea of how to maintain a home or a lot–just because it is cheap and they cannot find anywhere else to live. We really do not allow such parks around the DC area also MH are more dangerous than a standard dwelling in bad weather such as hurricanes, and tornadoes. Good Luck to you. Often by the time you pay rent and the other fees, you might as well live in a condo or stay in your home.

    by Jennifer — January 13, 2017

  15. Linda, one reason single level homes are not as available is the cost. When building a single level house you will have a longer roof, longer foundation. Your water pipes will have to extend long distances rather than go up from first floor bathroom to another on second floor. Excavation costs can be more. Heating and cooling may be more due to further distance. In a two floor home heat rises. Usually rooms that need water (plumbing) are ‘stacked’ so piping goes directly from one floor to the next. Plus, you may need a larger building lot to accommodate a longer house. There are a lot more expenses in a one level home and builders are in it to make money and get in and get out quick. They don’t cater to specialty homes unless you hire them to do so. Your best bet would be to work with a builder and make sure you buy a building lot that will accommodate a longer home. That is why I am partial to Mobile Homes (modular homes). They are one level and you can get them single, double or triple wide. They will bring the pieces to your building lot and put it together and hook up what needs to be. You probably have to get others to hook up the water line and sewer line if town services are available. I have seen several modular homes go up in my area. They put in full foundations so they are considered homes and not a mobile home that remains on wheels. Typically a mobile home is taxed like a vehicle and depreciates in value like a vehicle. Most people want their homes to go up in value, but if you are not leaving an inheritance to anyone then it doesn’t really matter. With a mobile home you can work with the manufacturing company and can upgrade kitchens, bathrooms and other things if you are looking for more luxury. There may be other options such as buying used, buying foreclosed even renting to see if you like that lifestyle.

    by Louise — January 13, 2017

  16. I am already retired, living in a 55+ community. Since my husband’s passing my 1800+sq ft home is too big. I love love love the look, the feel, the concept of “pocket communities.” Is there a site that I can go on to find where these communities are….either already in existence or in development. I would like to stay in the north east. Thank you

    by Mildred A Rutstein — July 23, 2017

  17. Hi Mildred,
    When you do a general search on this site, type in Pocket Neighborhoods and information and articles should appear. If you go to “Advanced Search” on the search bar, you’ll be able to select the states you’re interested in. Pocket Neighborhoods is one of many amenities you can add to your search.
    Good Luck!!

    by Moderator Flo — July 24, 2017

  18. I know this is an old thread, but these types of communities continue to grow in popularity.
    Piper Trail is a pocket neighborhood for active adults age 55+ sponsored by Lutheran Life Villages in Fort Wayne, IN. LLV is excited to bring this concept to the Midwest. Learn more at

    by Lutheran Life Villages — January 28, 2019

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