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What is a Residential Area?

By Kathy Heydasch
Updated May 16, 2024
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A residential area is an area in which homes are located. More specifically, the area has been zoned by a local planning committee as an area in which homes can be built and occupied. Other types of areas are zoned commercial, agricultural, industrial, or a mixture of each.

Planning for a residential area can happen before or after an area is developed. If an area is zoned residential before any structures are built, then the area can be controlled and make for a more beautiful and family-friendly residential area. If an area is zoned residential after structures are in place, then any current businesses or structures can be grandfathered into the law, meaning they can remain in place until the business closes. Even if the business shuts its doors, however, there are still commercial or industrial structures standing in an area zoned residential.

Zoning in a residential division can take many forms and encompass many different styles of housing. Residences can be single-family or multi-family. They can also be one-story or multiple stories tall. An apartment complex is an example of a business in a residential area that might be several stories high. This may or may not be prohibited in the area, depending on the zoning rules for the location.

When building in these areas, it is important to note the zoning of the entire area in which one buys property. For example, a residential area can be adjacent to a commercial area. So one might wish to check the zoning of nearby lots to ensure that businesses won’t be built around the new home.

Zoning can also change. A farm that goes out of business might be zoned agricultural until a planning committee decides to change it to a residential area. At that point, single- or multi-family homes can be built upon the land, depending on the rules the zoning committee decides to put in place.

A person wishing to build a residence in a commercial or industrial area can apply for the district to be re-zoned. Likewise, a person wishing to build a business in one of these areas can apply for the area to be re-zoned. One must know the authoritative unit in the local government that is responsible for zoning and re-zoning and pay attention to regular meetings. Typically, a zoning or re-zoning committee must post signs and alert property owners if a drastic change is about to happen to a piece of property.

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