There are so many wonderful things about living in a master-planned community. You can probably name a few right off the top of your head – they’re the reasons you bought your home. Master Planned Communities are easy to navigate, safe, and very walkable. Many have covetable amenities, such as parks, trails, shopping centers, and restaurants. Some also have athletic courts, pools, fitness centers, and clubhouses. These amenities are a draw for people of all ages.  However, they are especially attractive for families with young children – some communities even have their own schools!

Master-Planned Community Amenities

Smart developers have researched and listened to home buyers to determine what people are really looking for in a community. For young families, this often means a safe neighborhood for children to ride bikes and play with friends. There are usually numerous opportunities for children to engage in outdoor and athletic activities (and to step away from electronics!), as well as ways for parents to connect and socialize with other families, without ever having to leave the neighborhood. For young families, a master-planned community can feel like being on vacation all the time.

Consider Brittany, a 34-year-old stay-at-home mother to two daughters, ages 4 and 1. She and her husband Chad recently bought a home in a master-planned community just minutes from downtown Nashville, Tenn. Brittany’s family was especially drawn to the playgrounds, pools, community outdoor movie nights, and the opportunity to meet other families with children the same age – giving them an instant, effortless social circle. “The whole community really does feel like a resort,” she said. “There are so many activities and the houses and common areas are just beautiful. I met several other stay at home moms right after we moved in and now we get together nearly every day to let our kids play.”

Master-Planned Community Association

As with any other population and setting, it’s important for homeowners in master-planned communities to be considerate of their neighbors. They should not run afoul of Association policies, but for many families with young children, this can be confusing. Children often have energy to burn, lots of toys to leave outside, and they love to be loud. But parents should be relieved to know that Associations are not allowed to have rules that discriminate against children. The Federal Fair Housing Act bans discrimination in housing issues on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.  “Familial status” has been interpreted to apply to families with children. This means an Association cannot pass or enforce rules like this one an apartment complex in Denver attempted to enforce:

“All children must be supervised by an adult at all times while playing outside. No sports activities, skateboarding, roller-blading, or general extracurricular activities are to take place in our community. If we see anyone violating any of the above activities or see any unsupervised children they will be sent home immediately.”

Courts found that the apartment complex’ rules were unnecessarily burdensome and oppressive to families.

The Federal Fair Housing Act would also apply to a rule that, for example, prevented children from playing outside in the evenings. Even simply regulating the use of the pool or other recreational facilities can make families with children feel unwelcome and may be a violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act.

So, while it’s always a good idea to consider your neighbors and try not to disturb them, Associations are not allowed to regulate kids being kids.

Community Exceptions

There is, however, one exception.  Some communities are established and specifically designed for older people. Some of these age-restricted communities have rules that prevent someone under a certain age, 55 for example, from buying or renting a home in the neighborhood or from visiting a resident for more than a set number of weeks. Federal laws preventing discrimination against children do not apply to communities like these.

Many master-planned communities were designed with young children in mind. With abundant sidewalks, open areas, playgrounds, parks, swimming pools and trails, they can be a dream come true for many families. Parents should enjoy those amenities with their children in tow, knowing that they are right where they should be.