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What Does the Term 'Bedroom Community' Mean?

What Does the Term 'Bedroom Community' Mean?
Home is a place dear to everyone's heart. We have a special kind of attachment with it, as we spend half of our lives there. The Bedroom Community, however, utilizes its home only as a resting place. This OpinionFront article throws some light on a different kind of residence.
Rujuta Patil
Last Updated: May 6, 2018
Do gains equal losses?
Affordable prices is one of the reasons people have to buy homes so far off from their workplaces. But then, daily long-distance-travel increases their expense too!

Although the name does not give any hint towards it, the term Bedroom Community is related to the human settlement pattern. Rapid growth of the urban periphery is commonly seen now. There are many big cities in the world, which are industrial hubs, famous tourist locations, financial or political capitals of a country, or both. The enormity of such urban centers is not just in terms of numbers, it is much beyond that. In this case, it is about the spatial dynamics that begin impacting the entire system or cluster of towns. In this context, bedroom communities and these large urban centers share an interdependence.

This term is used for a group of people who work in the cities during the day and come home at night only to sleep. In other words, commuters utilize their home only as a 'bedroom'.

The economy of a particular region tends to influence the building and transformation of the local infrastructure including industries and households. All metropolitan cities are surrounded with such housing patterns, which primarily expand in response to the changing employment centers or larger industrial scenario. Unlike the flats or apartment homes in core urban areas, bedroom communities are defined by a structured arrangement of single family homes in the purlieu of a metro city. They are, thus, also referred to as commuter towns. These can include unincorporated communities or a part of it and can be similar to the concept of residential districts. However, they should not be confused with -

A suburb: A residential area that could either be within or on the borders of a city, also called a mixed use area.

An exurb: An area that is beyond the city limits and is inhabited by the wealthy people.

Urban sprawl: A continuous and unrestrained growth of urban areas, also a stretch of or a group of urban towns.

These towns are known with different names in different parts of the world, like dormitory suburb in Australia, bedroom suburb in UK, and dormitory town in Britain.

Commuters travel to and fro every day to their area of employment. They either drive down to their office themselves, or use public transit systems including buses, trains, or taxis, also sometimes carpooling.

No major industry/employment centers are set up in this region.

It has a primary level economy that runs on retail chains, malls, and basic personal services required by the commuters.

Unlike large urban cities, these do not have many options for recreational activities or entertainment.

Public schools and colleges present nearby make it easy for the families of the commuters.

Examples of Bedroom Communities
  1. Clarksville, Maryland: Many commuters travel from Clarksville to Washington D.C. by bus on a daily basis.
  2. Powell, Ohio: Inhabitants here belong to the high-income groups, mostly working in Columbus and its adjacent suburbs.
  3. Gonzales, California: Located to the southeast of Salinas, it houses many vineyards and is a small agriculture-dependent community.
  4. Lake Worth, Florida: Near to the East Atlantic Coast, it is a part of the Palm Beach County and attracts many tourists as well as residents.
  5. Boardman, Ohio: Located south of Youngstown, in Mahoning County, also known as the 'Steel Valley', is a famous retail center, with many chain stores and malls.
  6. Castle Shannon, Pennsylvania: A Borough in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, floral industry, and mining connects it to the metro region.

Why is Bedroom Community a Good Idea?
Affordability: Expenditure-wise, people prefer regions that are far from the city centers. Buying a house in the city outskirts offers them cheaper prices for comparatively large and spacious homes.

Proximity to cities: Daily movement of the working population between work and home makes it necessary that residence should be closer to the place of work, but still easily accessible.

Low crime rate: It is generally observed that there are rarely any criminal acts happening in these neighborhoods, which adds to the advantages of these residences.
Families with children: There are good public schools, also colleges in the vicinity, so parents need not worry for their kids' education.

Greenery and Peace: Mainly surrounded by huge green trees, with a landscape of well-manicured lawns, bedroom communities are a 'away-from-the-city-rush' kind of setting, and therefore, peaceful dwellings for families with average income.

Sometimes, It's Not a Good Idea
✦ The time that one spends in traveling between home and the workplace is a lot. Some people take almost two hours to travel one way, which leaves very less or no personal and family time.

There is hardly any community that has amenities like what the city life offers. Individuals often take their kids and family to the cities for recreational activities and events like sports, theater performances, exhibitions, workshops, etc.

✦ With increasing urbanization, the prices of houses also become competitive. Planning for a large, single family home needs some real hard work.

✦ An important factor for the new residents is also the lack of cultural connect with the area. There may not be a common factor like ethnicity, historical background, language, or even childhood memories linking them to the geographical region.

What do Studies Say?
There are studies looking into the impacts of this kind of life on children and their performance in school, a specific one being the 'Role of Community Involvement in Schools', with reference to the social relationships in a bedroom community by Jane P. Preston, published in the Canadian Journal of Education.

Certain observations say a lot about the sociocultural scenario in the bedroom communities. The lifestyle of these people spares very little time for them to socialize amongst themselves. Some families always prefer going to the cities for all their needs, but the native residents may not, creating a small difference of behavior between the two. This results in to a not-so-open culture, as there is hardly any interaction within the group.

The community, thus, serves just the purpose of residence for majority of the population. So, as a settlement pattern, it probably does not function like an end in itself, but acts as a means to something else.

"... rural communities on the fringes of growing metropolitan areas may find it advantageous to become bedroom communities from which residents commute daily to cities for employment. This strategy can be advanced by improving transportation infrastructure and making sure that the quality of housing and basic services suits the demands of commuters and their families (Heimlich and Anderson, 2001; Hayden, 2003). Because these commuters tend to have relatively high-wage jobs in urban areas, their incomes can add significantly to the local tax and economic base, and the things they demand, such as high-quality schools, can also add to local wealth."

Rural Wealth Creation: Concept, Strategies and Measures
Economic Research Report Number 131, March 2012
United States Department of Agriculture

Developed means of transportation along with technological advancement and affordability have gifted us with this ability of increased transit between areas. This ease of movement is the key to the dynamics of urban geography. Bedroom communities play a crucial part in this urban dynamism.