Many residential developers are none too happy about the increased emphasis on cluster mailboxes to replace curbside delivery in new communities.

Last Spring your HBA met with postal officials and local government planners and engineers about the new mandate from the U.S. Postal Service requiring Cluster Mailbox Units in new subdivisions.  To read our previous article about CBUs, click here.

The good news is it is not always a given that traditional service must be replaced. If you want to maintain the practice of curbside service for your new home buyers, the National Association of Home Builders offers developers some tips for success.

It iss helpful to know why the sudden push: When the Internet and other competing, less expensive delivery services started eating into the revenue of the U.S. Postal Service at the beginning of this century, the feds began to look at ways to stem the tide.

Cluster mailboxes were already being used successfully in many town home communities, replacing the door-to-door delivery that had been the norm for more than 100 years. Developers were usually able to stop local postal officials from switching it up for single-family homes – until the rules changed in 2012.

That is when the Postal Service revised the Postal Operations Manual – the bible of post office management – to make cluster mailboxes the default for new residential development. It includes infill development in areas where older homes still get curbside, or even door-to-door, mail delivery.

Anything else requires local postmaster approval, and that is just one more reason to build and maintain good relationships with local officials, like your Home Builders Association has done, including the ones charged with delivering your buyers’ mail.

Ask about security. Just because a development has a common area does not mean that it is well lit or secure. Curbside delivery can reduce risk to residents.

Ensure accessibility. Postal Service rules require that any cluster mailbox installation must not require residents to walk more than one block to get their mail, but even a short walk can be too much for an elderly home owner or one with a disability. Again, curbside service reduces this worry.

What about bad weather? Retrieving mail can be dangerous or downright impossible when snow or ice impedes access to a cluster mailbox.

Who is in charge? While some planned communities include home owners associations charged with collecting dues to maintain common areas, that is not true of many new residential developments. Who will maintain the cluster mailboxes and keep them secure without such a group in place?

According to NAHB, in some cases Postal Service officials may conclude that cluster mailboxes are not worth the savings. Pointing out these issues may help them along.  But keep in mind that local ordinances are being developed to require CBUs, so you will need a waiver in writing to use individual mailboxes at each home.