The term pocket neighborhood sometimes referred to as “bungalow courts” or “cottage clusters,” was first coined by Ross Chapin of Ross Chapin Architects. Pocket neighborhoods tend to consist of about 12 homes that all face a common area that residents must walk through to access their front door.
Pocket communities really took off in the Pacific Northwest in collaboration with developers and builders, including The Cottage Company in Seattle, Triad Associates in Kirkland, and Artisan Fine Homebuilding. Third Street Cottages in Seattle, is a community of eight detached cottages located on four standard single-family lots. To help this vision come to life, the municipality adopted an innovative Cottage Housing Development (CHD) zoning code. The code allows for up to double the density of detached homes in all single-family zones.
Pocket communities also serve as a great solution for increasing the number of affordable units within a municipality. Creating small homes on small lots allows more compact development, which uses land efficiently and can offer greater access to amenities. Residents may also enjoy a smaller mortgage, with the option to enhance their home by selecting higher-end finishes. Then there’s the increasing value of these small homes. The Third Street Cottages, the first of the pocket neighborhoods, have resold for as much as 250 percent of their original price, proving their enduring appeal and value.
Small homes feed our recent fascination with resilience and sustainability because they meet the needs of communities that wish to increase density and reform land use patterns without losing the feel of a single-family community. Smaller homes also can reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions through the use of passive solar energy, low water-use fixtures, and the abundance of vegetation in these communities found in the interior courtyard, personal gardens and surrounding open space. Additionally, the demographic shift toward smaller households and the rise in single-person households is driving a need for a more diverse housing stock that includes small homes.