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An aerial view of housing developments near Markham, Ontario.
Tract housing in San Jose, California.

Tract housing (also known as cookie-cutter housing) is a style of housing development in which multiple identical or nearly-identical homes are built on a tract of land which is subdivided into individual lots. Tract housing developments are typically found in North American suburbs that were modeled on the "Levittown" concept and sometimes encompass large areas of dozens of square miles.

Tract housing development only makes use of a few designs, and labor costs are reduced because workers only need to learn the skills and movements of constructing a limited variety of home designs. In addition, as all homes in the development will be built at the same time, the cost of purchasing and transporting building supplies may be reduced due to economies of scale. Components such as roof trusses, plumbing trees, and stair systems are often fabricated in factories and installed on site. This allows contractors to reduce prices, which in turn can make homes more affordable (and more accessible to a larger percentage of the population) and may also allow contractors to reap higher profits.

Early tract homes were often identical, but more recently built tract homes no longer look identical from the exterior; variations range from mass-produced homes with superficial, cosmetic differences to multiple variations in footprint, roof form, and materials. In addition, floor plans may be reversed or rooms or garage bays added or removed. Builders or buyers of new homes may also be able to specialize custom upgrades.

Alternating reversal of floor plans allows the creation of a "utility side" of the house, with common drop locations from the street utilities, reducing both cost and visual clutter, with the opposite side more pleasing in appearance. Such reversal often ignores potential beneficial orientation relative to sun, wind, and shade.

The concept of tract housing is occasionally mocked in American popular culture as the basis of a sterile and dispiriting suburbia. Nonetheless, the use of tract housing in new American suburban developments continues to dominate.

Coal miner colony in Königsborn near Unna, Germany

Housing colonies

In Europe the majority of subdivided landstrips are built in the style of row housing development areas. The model of tract housing had been used widely in the history of land reclamation in the 17th to 19th century, especially in the Netherlands and inner-European (former) bogs. Modern tract housing had been used for company towns in the 19th to 20th century, especially in the areas of coal mining which attracted a large number of workers. A tract housing area of this type is colloquially known in German as a "(zechen)kolonie"(G), and in Flemish Dutch and French as a "cité"(D)/(F) or "coron"(F).

See also

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