Subdivision is the act of dividing land into pieces that are easier to sell or otherwise develop, usually via a plat. The former single piece as a whole is then known in the United States as a subdivision. Subdivisions may be simple, involving only a single seller and buyer, or complex, involving large tracts of land divided into many smaller parcels. If it is used for housing it is typically known as a housing subdivision or housing development, although some developers tend to call these areas communities.
A subdivision does not need to be sold, in whole or in part, for its resulting pieces to be considered separate parcels of land. A subdivision plat approved by a local planning commission, once recorded in a registry of deeds, is generally deemed to have created the parcels of land identified on the plat itself.
The problem of testamentary division of property was identified by the SCPEA in the footnote to the definition of subdivision, but not fully clarified by it. In some jurisdictions, a testamentary division of property does not constitute a legal subdivision for purposes of separate conveyancing of the "subdivided" parcels.
Furthermore, the SCPEA's definition leaves ambiguous the notion of 'building development' and whether the identification of multiple construction sites on a single parcel of land constitutes a subdivision subject to the review and approval authority of the planning commission. Interpretations of this vary among American jurisdictions. Subdivision developers may use an architect’s services only once, with the rest of the tract houses using the same master template: the resulting houses all look similar as in the above photograph of Markham, Ontario.
The overall purpose of a subdivision is to create an environment conducive to overall development and sustained growth, with development defined as:
… the design work of lot layout, the construction of drainage structures, the construction of buildings or public use areas, the planning and construction of public streets and public roads, and the placement of public utilities.
In Alberta, subdivision is the dividing of a single parcel of land into two or more parcels, each to be given a separate title. Subdivision is also used for existing lot line adjustments. Notwithstanding a few exceptional circumstances, subdivision approval and endorsement by the local municipality must always be received before the subdivision can be registered at the Land Titles Office and titles issued (including bare land condominiums). Exceptions may occur with parcels of land that contain more than one quarter section, a river lot, a lake lot, or some settlement lots created prior to July 1, 1950.