City Versus Suburbs Management Approaches Change Based on Geography

The ‘big city’ is known for its breakneck pace, as life whirls around the unprepared out-of-towner in an overwhelming swirl. Suburbia, on the other hand, is supposed to be a respite from that intense metropolitan grind – a place to patiently teach the kids how to play tee-ball out in the yard until it’s time for dinner. 

Of course, the accuracy of these generalizations varies from person to person and family to family. But distinctions do exist between urban and rural communities, and those differences impact how those communities are managed and run. Community associations in more densely-packed locales have different concerns and priorities than those in sprawling townships. The Cooperator spoke with some professionals who have worked with both to delve into the similarities and differences.

Population Density

Space tends to be at a premium in the city, while an association in the suburbs generally occupies more square footage – or more acreage, to put it more accurately. The vertical-versus-sprawl contrast is the biggest variable when it comes to managing communities in those respective settings.

“From a management perspective, an urban high-rise can be easier to handle than a garden-type apartment community further out from the city,” says John Wolf, CEO of management firm Alexander Wolf & Company in Plainview, New York, “because with the latter, you have to consider landscaping, snow removal, and things of that nature. If you’re looking at a high-rise, much of what is vital is contained within the building: you have your boiler, the roof, elevators, heating systems and mechanics, which are more or less standard and need to be in compliance with local laws. But outside of the city, you have many of those same issues, in addition to sewage treatment, pools, siding, etc. A community with more acres means that you’re going to have to keep track of more vendors and contractors.”

The day-to-day complaints one hears in the city also differ significantly from what you might hear in the suburbs. “With city condos, I get a lot of noise disturbances, especially given how there are more brownstones and smaller associations,” says Jennifer L. Barnett, a partner at the litigation department of Marcus Errico Emmer Brooks in Braintree, Massachusetts. “More often than not, code violations happen more often in large municipalities than they do inside of the city, whether those are related to mice infestations or any other sort of pest issue, balconies, and retaining walls, etc. The Boston Fire Department makes it a point to periodically inspect buildings throughout the city. And if you don’t take care of a violation right away, they take the next step and pursue a criminal complaint with the housing courts.


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