Netflix’s ‘Love Is Blind’ Highlights Why a Lot of Suburban Housing Sucks

Estimated read time 7 min read
  • Viewers of Netflix’s “Love is Blind” are making harsh comments about the housing development on the show.
  • One viewer called it the “most terrifying” part of the reality dating show.
  • The development is a typical Frankenstein of American suburban housing created by zoning constraints.

Thanks for signing up!

Access your favorite topics in a personalized feed while you’re on the go.

download the app


While watching the sixth season of Netflix’s hit show “Love is Blind,” eagle-eyed viewers spotted something they found distasteful.

It wasn’t the contestants staying up until 5 a.m. talking or their inability to pull away from their phones to have a proper break-up.

It was the suburban Charlotte, North Carolina, townhome community that a handful of the newly engaged couples were made to live in.

“Why aren’t we talking about the most terrifying part of Love is Blind: this Charlotte housing development,” one viewer posted on X alongside an aerial image of the newly-built cookie-cutter rowhouses.

There’s nothing particularly remarkable about what’s named the Blu South development in the town of Pineville — it’s typical of many car-dependent American suburbs and exurbs, offering rows of attached single-family townhomes with wide streets and driveways and a bit of green space off a highway.

But the sharply-worded reactions to the development speak to the growing preference for walkable, self-sufficient communities that operate less like traditional suburbs and more like the city 10 miles away.

Like many Sun Belt cities, Charlotte has seen a surge of new residents over the last several years, becoming one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the country. With additional residents comes higher demand for housing, which has sharply inflated rents and home prices. New rental homes, like the Blu South townhouses, offer single-family homes at slightly lower prices to many of the young professionals who’ve flooded the market.

Charlotte’s leaders recognize the city needs to build more housing to meet this demand. In 2021, the city council approved a new development plan called Charlotte 2040, designed to build more homes and create more transit-connected, mixed-use communities.

While townhome communities are better models of development than even less dense suburbs filled with freestanding houses, critics said there’s a lot to improve on.

“Perhaps Pineville could take some inspiration from the Charlotte 2040 plan and consider the ways in which it might enable development that would allow folks to be able to get to places without just relying on the car,” said Stefan Lallinger, the executive director of Next100, a public policy think tank.

‘Lightyears away from where we need to be,’ but better than the alternative

The fundamental appeal of townhome developments like Blu South is that they offer a somewhat more affordable option than neighborhoods full of detached single-family houses. Townhomes allow developers to build more homes per acre and rent or sell them for less.

Yongqiang Chu, a real estate and urban economics professor at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, said townhome developments are better than the alternative. The “greatest benefit” of density, Chu argued, is lower costs.

“Anything that can help developers to develop cheaper alternatives to single-family houses, I think, is a good thing,” he said.

An executive at Blu South noted that the development is still under construction and, when it’s complete, will feature amenities like dog parks, a pet spa, basketball and pickleball courts, and a pool, among other features. The criticism online does “not accurately reflect our community, nor the opinion of the show and its contestants, nor the overall consensus of our residents and those that have visited us,” he said.

While suburban townhome developments like Blu South are an incremental improvement on the McMansion-filled suburbs, they’re still “lightyears away from where we need to be” in making the suburbs more affordable, liveable, and sustainable, urban planner Brent Toderian said.

“It’s the most modest approach to density you could imagine in a suburb,” said Toderian, who previously served as Vancouver’s chief city planner. He argued that suburban communities need significantly more density than townhomes allow to support public services like mass transit, schools, parks, and amenities like grocery stores, restaurants, and shops.

“You’re still doing car-dependent suburban sprawl, you’re just doing it slightly better. But you’re still doing the wrong thing,” Toderian said of Blu South.

Suburban developments don’t need to be car-dependent sprawl if they’re well-connected to public transit and have safe and accessible walking and bike infrastructure.

Because most Americans live in suburban communities, “it’s absolutely required that we do better suburbs,” Toderian said.

Charlotte’s heading in the right direction, but not fast enough

Charlotte’s new housing framework was followed by the passage of a uniform development ordinance, known as a UDO, updating what can be built where.

Lallinger said that the UDO updated zoning regulations for residential parts of the city and allowed developers to build duplexes, triplexes — and, in some cases, quadruplexes — in areas previously only zoned for single-family housing.

“Some folks estimate that before this went into effect, about 84% of the residential land in Charlotte was restricted to only single-family housing,” Lallinger said.

Charlotte 2040 aims to lessen car dependency, creating “neighborhood centers” that are a mix of residential and commercial developments and are walkable.

Stephanie Watkins-Cruz, the director of housing policy at the North Carolina Housing Coalition, a statewide nonprofit, said that as a nation and state “we’re really good” at building single-family homes.

“We have that down pat,” Watkins-Cruz said. “We are not great at building a wider variety of housing.” That mix of housing should include “middle housing,” something between a single-family home and a high-rise apartment building; that can include small apartment buildings, duplexes, and townhouses like those featured on “Love is Blind.”

As Watkins-Cruz notes, the area the townhouses are in was zoned as urban residential, limiting how much square footage can sit on the lot. That means that developments might try to maximize land opportunities, like by building townhouses next to each other.

When it comes to quality of life, “a local economy is really impacted when we are only building one home per acre, which gobbles up a lot of land, which leads to sprawl, which leads to more people driving, which is an environmental concern and can cause a whole other host of issues,” Watkins-Cruz said. “I think that the more housing types that we build and the more diverse our portfolio of housing types are within a particular community, then these might be perfect for someone in a particular point of their life.”

Ultimately, Watkins-Cruz said that at the state level, it’s time to reconsider what housing types policies incentivize — and which are more difficult to build right now. With current units in the “Love is Blind” townhomes specifically going for around $2,800, many North Carolinians — who make a median household income of $65,070 — might need more affordable options.

“In what way can we design either legislation or a type of authority that allows more affordable, accessible, moderate-priced housing to be built more frequently in addition to — or maybe at the same rate — as this housing that really is only reaching a particular market, and not necessarily your seniors or your young folks or your families or workforce,” Watkins-Cruz said, “especially the workforce that really contributes to your local economy.”

Editor’s note: March 7, 2024 — This article was updated after publication to include a comment from Blu South.

Correction: March 8, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misstated that the uniform development ordinance did not apply to the Blu South housing development; it does.