The U.S. Postal Service is starting to push for centralized “cluster” mailboxes in single-family subdivisions. Here are five things to know about the issue.
1. It’s official policy
The U.S. Postal Service wants developers to install “cluster” mailboxes not just in apartment complexes but in new single-family subdivisions. In a “Builder and Developer Information Packet,” which includes standards for cluster box purchase and design, centralizing delivery in all new housing developments is described as official USPS policy.
2. Saving time and money
Cluster boxes would let postal workers deliver to a single point instead of house to house, saving time and personnel hours for the agency, which operated at a $1.5 billion net loss for the third quarter of 2018.
3. Questions remain
The Postal Service is contacting some developers directly, but also is pressuring planning agencies to make cluster boxes a requirement for approving development plans. Many questions remain unclear, such as whether only one cluster box location will be approved no matter how many houses are in the development
4. Increased costs for developers
Installing cluster boxes can cost thousands of dollars, developers say; that’s partly offset by not having to put in regular boxes at each house, but much of the cost comes from related infrastructure: parking spots, a handicap-accessible location, crosswalks and sidewalks from every house to the box site, even a sheltering roof for the boxes. The boxes must be bought from an approved list of manufacturers.
5. Can policy be enforced?
Some developers are resisting the demand, and some planning agencies say they can’t really enforce a federal policy anyway. But the Postal Service says it will deliver only to spots approved in advance by local postal officials, so its employees may refuse to bring mail to unsanctioned locations in the future.
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