Along with comparing square footage and choosing the right floor plan, one of the most important parts of buying a home is selecting the right neighborhood. We all strive to live in the perfect neighborhood, but that doesn’t have to mean manicured lawns and gated drives. The perfect neighborhood is one in which you have a feeling of belonging and identity–where there is a strong sense of community among neighbors.
Before you jump on the internet and start looking for houses in ideal neighborhoods–where there will be long lines of neighbors waiting to help you unpack your moving truck and dropping off assortments of baked goods and fresh flowers–look around at your own neighborhood. Remember: the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but it is greener where you water it. Your neighborhood might be a browning lawn that could use a little extra water, or it might be a wasteland of dead grass in desperate need of a full landscaping job. Either way, you have the power to turn your neighborhood into the perfect neighborhood.
What is a Neighborhood?
A neighborhood is defined by both location and social structure. It includes the geographical constraint of a locality along with the social connectivity of a community. It’s the people of the community that give life and character to a neighborhood; otherwise, it would simply be a group of buildings
What Makes a Neighborhood a Great Place to Live?
Some features that make a neighborhood great are based entirely on location, like being close to public transportation or having good walkability. More often than not, however, people are willing to commute a little farther and pass up being close to the city center in order to have lower crime rates and friendlier neighbors.
You can check out this list of top 12 neighborhood features from Trulia, featured on Forbes, for more components that make a neighborhood truly great.
18 Ways You Can Build a Better Neighborhood
Even if your neighborhood is lacking some of the features listed above, that doesn’t mean your community doesn’t have the potential to become great. It may not happen overnight, but a few well-intentioned projects could spark the beginning of a revolution in your area. Here is a list of 18 projects you can take on to start building a better neighborhood.
- Create your own Little Free Library.
- Plant a tree.
- Pick up trash and litter.
- Try guerrilla gardening.
- Fix up your front porch with potted plants.
- Turn alleys into engaging public spaces.
- Walk more, and drive less.
- Volunteer with local service organizations.
- Use peer-to-peer storage, like Neighbor.
- Become a local tour guide with Vayable.
- Host an outdoor movie night
- Smile at everyone, including strangers.
- Show up to zoning and development meetings.
- Shop local.
- Get involved with the community garden.
- Throw a barbeque or block party.
- Start a neighborhood organization.
These little projects won’t turn your little Baltic Avenue into Park Place overnight, but they will make a difference. Not every problem can be solved with a free book stand, but you never know what kind of ripples you’ll create.
What Does it Mean to Be a Good Neighbor?
When you list all the problems in your area like shut-in elderly people, hungry children, and drug abuse, it may seem daunting, if not impossible, to fix them all. The truth is, most problems in a neighborhood can be solved by simply being good neighbors. A community of support and love is a safe and happy community.
Why By a Good Neighbor?
Not only does it improve the neighborhood when you put forth the effort to be a good neighbor, there are also personal benefits. Here is a list of reasons of how you can profit be a good neighbor:
- Increased Home Value. Houses in friendly, socially active communities are far more desirable on the housing market than those that aren’t. If you plan on selling your home in the near future, being a good neighbor and inspiring others to do the same can help you sell your house quickly.
- Being “In the Know”. Being a good neighbor means you talk to people in your community. As people get to know you and become more comfortable around you, they’ll dish out plenty of juicy tidbits about the latest happenings. Instead of being the last person to know about big changes coming to your area, you’ll be among the first.
- Increased Social Opportunities. If you’re the kind of person who loves entertaining and hosting, being a good neighbor will give you plenty of chances to do just that. With friendly faces all over the community, you will have dinner parties, birthday celebrations, and get-togethers scheduled regularly.
- Security. There is nothing like the peace of mind that comes from being able to trust your neighbors. You will always have someone to rely on in an emergency and to keep an eye on your home and property while you’re away. Being a good neighbor means you will probably never have to worry about a stolen package again.
Ways to Be a Good Neighbor
Now that you know all the great things that come from being a good community citizen, you might be wondering where to start. While there is no “right way” to go about being a good neighbor, here are a few ideas to help you get started.
- It all starts with your mindset. Before you can be a good neighbor on the outside, you need to be a good neighbor on the inside. This means actively working to change the way you see those around you. Instead of seeing your community as the houses surrounding your own house, start to see it as the people living in those houses. Focus on finding ways to care about those people, and let them care about you in return.
- A smile goes a long way. Next time you see your neighbor outside, instead of hurrying into your car and speeding off to work, take the time to smile and wave. This is a great way to meet new people and let them know you’re friendly. You never know, that smile could brighten someone’s day.
- Follow the golden rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. If you want your neighbors to bring you cookies, take them cookies. If you want someone to keep an eye on your house while you aren’t home, do the same for your neighbors.
- Go the extra mile. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the busyness of your own life and fail to see what those around you might need help with. Don’t fall into this bad neighbor trap. Take the time to notice the needs of your neighbors, and then go help them with those needs.
How Can You Make Your Neighborhood Safer?
Safety is a top concern for buyers, renters, families, and single people alike. It’s important to know your loved ones, property, and self are all safe, but not all of us are lucky enough to live in places with low crime rates. Being a good neighbor and undertaking community improvement projects can inspire big changes in the long run, but what can you do right now to reduce crime and increase security in your area? Below are some things you can do today to make your neighborhood safer.
Organize and Emergency Hub
Set up a designated neighborhood meeting place and strategy in case of emergencies such as fire, theft, flooding, and break-ins. Organize teams and plan how to respond to these surprising situations. Having a support network will give everyone on the block peace of mind and make it easier to deal with emergency situations when they arise.
Staying connected and informed is easier than ever in today’s online world. Use social media to your neighborhood’s advantage by increasing communication among community members. Here are a few ways you can use the internet to connect with your neighbors.
- Start a neighborhood Facebook or Instagram page.
- Come up with a neighborhood hashtag.
- Send out community newsletters.
- Start an online “yard sale” group where neighbors can post items for sale.
- Set up an online forum or message board for the neighborhood.
Having an online presence makes it easy for everyone to stay up-to-date on both big changes and day-to-day incidents. It’s also a great way for new neighbors to get to know the neighborhood and feel involved.
Take Traffic Laws Seriously
Following the rules of the road makes the streets of your neighborhood safer for everyone. Be courteous when using the street as a driver, biker, or pedestrian, and encourage others to do the same. When driving, be sure to slow down on neighborhood roads. A study done by AAA found that a pedestrian hit by a car going 30 mph is twice as likely to die as a pedestrian hit by a car going 25 mph. Saving less than two minutes of driving time is never worth someone’s life, so take it slow through your neighborhood (and every other neighborhood).
Get Involved With the Neighborhood Watch
Communities with an effective neighborhood watch program gain a reputation quickly and deter criminals. Get together with your neighbors to establish procedures for reporting and resolving crime in your area. Read this guide to starting a neighborhood watch program from the National Neighborhood Watch for how to implement a watch group in your own community.
Do Your Own Gardening and Yard Work
Many people choose to hire landscapers to save themselves a lot of time and energy; however, doing your own yard work can actually improve your community. You’re more approachable when you’re outside, so you’ll likely have more social interactions. This is a great way to become better acquainted with your neighbors.
While you’re out working in your yard, be sure to do a thorough job. Having a neatly landscaped lawn communicates a lot about the kind of people living in the home (or neighborhood as a whole). Keeping houses in good repair and well-groomed yards makes the neighborhood less appealing to criminals.
Use Your Front Yard
Now that you’ve spent time and energy making your yard beautiful, put it to use! People will come to chat and hang out if they see you spending time outside. On top of the increased social interactions, having people outside more often automatically means criminals will be less likely to target your neighborhood. Here are some ways you can put your front yard to use.
- Build a fire pit.
- Make a patio or gravel area and set up outdoor furniture.
- Play lawn games.
- Plant a flower garden and add benches for seating.
- Bring the grill to the front porch and set up chairs for a barbecue.
The most important thing to remember about making your neighborhood a safer place is that it all starts with you. Spending time outside, getting to know your neighbors, and setting up neighborhood organizations are all small things you can do to make a big difference in your community.
Utah’s Safest Neighborhood Statistics
In Utah, low crime rates are the norm and safe communities abound. There are a few cities in particular, however, that have managed to earn a spot at the top of the list of safest places in Utah. You can check out the full list of 20 safest cities in Utah from Safewise, but here are the top five.
- Highland, Utah. This city has a population of close to 30,000 people, but there are less than 7 crimes committed per 1,000. Highland’s amount of violent crime is only about 2% of the total crime rate.
- Santa Clara/Ivins, Utah. This Southern Utah area is home to about 15,000 people with only 8 crimes per 1,000. The amount of violent crime in Santa Clara/Ivins is only slightly higher than Highland, making up close to 2.5% of the total crime rate.
- Spanish Fork, Utah. Spanish Fork is a bustling city of nearly 40,000 with 14 crimes committed per 1,000 people. Violent crime is lower than Highland, coming in at just less than 2% of the total crime rate.
- North Ogden, Utah. Nearly 20,000 people call North Ogden home with only about 12 crimes per 1,000. Violent crime makes up a little more than 2% of the total crime rate in this Northern Utah community.
- Pleasant Grove, Utah. Pleasant Grove is a pleasant place to live with nearly 40,000 residents and a little less than 7 crimes committed per 1,000 people. Violent crime is a little more prevalent in this city, making up nearly 5% of the total crime rate.
All these cities have earned the title of safest because they are full of safe neighborhoods. Achieving low crime rates and a friendly community starts with you. It doesn’t take extravagant projects and piles of money to inspire real change. By being a better neighbor and building a better neighborhood, you are doing your part to build a better world.
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