Landing in a new community can mean a lot of variables you are beyond controlling. This can be scary, no question about it. But I believe gathering information is one way to have a better handle on what you may expect in a new area. We can’t control the world around us, but we can control the information we have to understand and to deal with these uncertainties.
Here are some things to consider learning more about in your community:
Connectivity – How will your new environment operate and function for you on a daily basis? Where are the nearest doctors offices, grocery stores, public transportation, fire and emergency services, schools, employers? How will these affect your daily routines? Are there sidewalks, bike paths, safe roadways, construction that will affect your quality of life?
Community – What is the tone of your new community. Is it a healthy place? Are there adequate community recreation opportunities (parks/classes/sports)? Are there adequate resources to support schools? Are there construction or school district rezoning plans underway? Are there sufficient jobs? What are the politics of the town/city? What issues are they facing? How are homelessness and hunger addressed in the community (with compassion or ambivalence?)
Safety – What are the newspapers and police crime reports documenting about your community? Are there drug, gang or burglary issues that are dominant? Growing problems? Areas of improvement? Review sex offender registries. What do the local storeowners say about their community? Tune in to televised City Council meetings or contact local government offices to find out how problems are being handled.
Health – How healthy is your new neighborhood? What were the area properties’ former uses (any hazardous materials use? information is available at local health departments and departments of natural resources) What kind of property uses surround your new neighborhood? (Manufacturing/smoke stacks/leaking tanks) What is your water supply – can you confirm its safety? What kind of building materials are in the homes in the area that could present a health issue (ie: lead paint, lead solder, contaminated wells, sewer issues, etcetera.–a qualified building inspector and the local health department can help address these.)
Financial – Where will you fit in the socioeconomic structure of this community? Are you comfortable with this position? Will you have adequate access to social services if needed? Are property re-assessments or special projects on the horizon. How sound and soundly managed are the community’s resources?
Culture – What is the tone of this community with regard to cultural difference (is it tolerated? subjugated? or celebrated?) Are there public arts festivals, museums, libraries, open community events? Are ethnic groups segregated or integrated in the community? Are there cultural celebrations? Are there arts and other cultural events in the schools?
Nuisance – If possible before the purchase or sign of a lease, consider returning to the neighborhood several times and get out of your car and walk around. Let your senses experience the community. Are there odors (nearby landfill, farming operation?), noises (airport flight lines, loud or unleashed pets, are there speeding cars or littered lawns?) Talk to neighbors. Are they open and welcoming, concerned, guarded?
Making a Difference – You will be a contributor to your community either passively by simply living your life within its economic and social framework or by actively getting involved. Some of the items identified above could be positively changed by the unique qualities that you bring to your community. Isn’t that an interesting concept full of possibilities?
These are just some starting points for thinking about your relocation. No matter how much information gathering you do, there will be things that are imperfect about your new community. Your individual values, choices, and attitudes influence the extent to which the above items play a role in your life.
Due diligence cannot be stressed enough. Banks and investors consider a huge checklist of factors before they make an investment. Why should you be any less entitled to information? Ask questions, consult experts, proceed thoughtfully, and do not allow yourself to be pressured or bullied into decisions you may regret in the future.
I would love to hear how your values influenced your choice of places to live. I will have more information to share about these issues and more stories to share in the coming months. In the meantime, I wish safe landings for you and your family.
- USEPA Superfund Site Information
- HUD on Healthy Homes
- A perspective on healthy communities
- A site to help compare community statistics
- Another site with community statistics
- US Census data