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SimCity Strategy Guides


Zoning: Residential

Residential zones are where your Sims live. Since they must provide workers, shoppers and students to all other parts of the city, as well as making your city buildings function, you will likely need a much larger area zoned for residential compared to other zones.

The following sections can be found in this article:

  • Zones & Population demographics
  • Creating high populations
  • The Big Government Achievement
  • What Causes Homelessness?
  • Fixing Homelessness
  • Zones & Population demographics


    The nature and placement of residential zones will to a large extent, determine how well your city functions and whilst it seems like a reasonable ambition to fill your city up with extremely wealthy Sims living in huge skyscrapers, this sometimes isn't always the best approach to keep your city functioning. For example, industrial specialization buildings rely on low wealth Sims to work there because high wealth Sims will not do those sorts of jobs. High tech industry, on the other hand, will want high wealth, educated workers. A tourist city will only thrive if it can attract all wealth levels, but supporting the commercial zones for a tourist city will also require a mixture of wealth levels amongst your residents too.

    This affects the planning and placement of residential zones a great deal because there are a number of factors that will conspire to develop low wealth housing, such as high pollution, large distances from schools or poor mass transit access, but avoiding these issues to create higher wealth residential zones, requires a lot more care and planning. Good access to local shops, access to schools, parks, clean water, lack of crime, healthcare etc, all need to be provided to your residential areas to encourage them to thrive and generate educated populations.

    How you design your residential areas will also be important if you want to create more realistic cities, especially with the limitations of the tiny city size. Typically real cities will develop high density centers, with low density suburbs and poorer areas that serve low tech industries. This means planning your city buildings and road network to provide areas which are specifically designed to grow, or not grow, to create a more genuine city environment.

    For more information:

  • Zoning: About Density
  • Roads & Mass Transit: Road Layout
  • Creating high populations

    Creating a megacity with hundreds of thousands of Sims is a real challenge in SimCity, there are, however, a few basic pointers I can offer to help you on your way:

    1. Focus on high density, low wealth housing
    2. Use connected cities to provide industrial and commercial zoning so you can zone less in your city
    3. Buy power, water and sewage processing from neigbors to save space for residential zoning
    4. Keep pollution low to reduce healthcare costs!
    5. Lower taxes means more Sims & greater happiness
    6. Use low wealth mass transit options heavily to offset traffic nightmare

    The Big Government Achievement

    This achievement is one that I've somewhat controversially listed as being 'difficult' - yet the method most commonly used (described below) is actually very easy. To be clear I am suggesting it is a difficult achievement IF you try and do it by building a normal, functioning city!

    Big Government: Difficult

    Place each one of the City Hall Departments on a single City Hall

    If the aforementioned general tips don't get you to the 600,000 population mark in order to win the Big Government Achievement, then here is the cheating method that is guarenteed (with a lot of patience) to work.

    1. Claim a new flat city in a region which already has a Department of Utilities
    2. Draw a road network which consists entirely of straight horizontal lines which run the width of the city with only a single main road which joins them (you can join them up on both sides if you wish, but it's not required as this is a largely traffic-free solution). Use the road guides to maximise the use of space
    3. Fill up the entire city with residential zones
    4. Do NOT add any water, power or any other city buildings
    5. Set the tax rate at 1% - you need only do this for low wealth residential
    6. Put the city on the highest speed and babysit it with your bulldozer to remove abandoned and burnt buildings as and when they appear
    7. Upgrade the road density as and when you can afford it

    This is a rather slow and boring scenario, I found it took about 3-4 hours to fill up to 650,000 population, at which point I gave up and moved on to part 2!

    Others have played this for considerably longer to see how far the population can get, optionally bulldozing buildings to try and get the most densely packed arrangement of high density towers. I believe about 1.8 million is about the limit.

    Regardless, whatever you decide to do, if you are going to do this, don't give up part way through and start adding things like water and power and a fire station, however tempting, because as soon as you do your Sims will start demanding more and stop moving in! In short, find something else to do, maybe read a book or play an app on your phone for a while whilst you bulldoze because as soon as you start messing with it, all hell will break loose!

    This video by Brohovah Witness shows a time-lapse play through of a high population city created with no services. The method used is the easiest way to create a foundation for the Big Government achievement.

    8. Once your city is over the 600,000 limit you'll need to place power stations with enough power for the whole city plus a bit to spare. I recommend coal stations because they're relatively cheap.
    9. Once the power is up, place a water treatment plant on a spot that has water
    10. The Town Hall will now be unlocked, place it (you may need to delete a bit of road to fit it in)
    11. Upgrade the City Hall, and once fully upgraded, place all 6 modules on it to get the achievement

    For more information:

  • Government: Upgrading City Hall
  • Achievements
  • What Causes Homelessness?

    Sims become homeless (shown by an orange icon of a Sim carrying a bag) when they can't find a job within the local area, run out of money and therefore can't pay their rent. Homeless Sims are generally unhappy souls (for obvious reasons), they will not pay taxes and will reduce the effectiveness of your city parks by squatting there. They may also take up residence in abandoned buildings, which increases their already higher fire risk. Homelessness leads to an increase in crime as homeless Sims are more likely to become criminals than ordinary poor folk according to EA (which is not at all judgy...)

    There are three basic factors that can cause homelessness to rise:

  • Poor zoning
  • Poor zoning causes bad traffic and means Sims are too far from workplaces, or are unable to get to the workplaces within the work day

  • Lack of education
  • Sims who reside in buildings which are not educated have an increased risk of becoming homeless

  • High residential taxes
  • Although the game reports high taxes as a cause of homelessness, it is not caused by the tax rate specifically, but rather reflects the fact that unemployed Sims can't pay their taxes!

    When it comes to taxes and homelessness any amount of tax is too much, so don't bother trying to fix a homelessness problem by reducing your taxes to anything other than 0%! A tax rate 11% or higher seems to cause widespread complaints and yet Sims still expect to get free education, healthcare, fire, police and recreational services for their extremely low taxes!

    Homeless Sims will congregate in your city parks, which affects the happiness and land value of local areas. Essentially a park ceases to function once it has been 'infested' with homeless Sims (again... judge-much EA).

    For more information:

  • Parks: Happiness, Wealth & Land Value
  • Fixing Homelessness

    Homelessness in SimCity is one of the most widespread and intractable social problems. Rather like too much crime, having homeless Sims in your city is a symptom that areas of your city are dysfunctional and need serious attention.

    Other 'warning signs' are rising unemployment, particularly amongst low wealth Sims (check your population panel), zone abandonment (where buildings in some areas keep being abandoned over and over for reasons other than fire), and rising crime. Poor happiness levels in low wealth residential areas along with these other negative factors typically means a problem of homeless Sims will soon follow.

    Zone balancing

    The most fundamental issue to address is zone imbalance, where lack of commercial and industrial zoning causes unemployment.

    This can be a city-wide problem, if the total number of workers is greater than the total number of jobs. It can also be a localized problem within residential neighborhoods, especially if there is heavy traffic; there may be jobs available, but Sims may be unable to get to a workplace before the end of the working day. A Sim that cannot enter a workplace by the end of the working day will be considered unemployed. A household that has unemployed residents will have a shortage of money and in turn leads to abandonment of the building and homelessness.

    Look out for areas where low wealth buildings are reporting that they are out of money, de-zone some residential and add commercial or industrial, or place city buildings that provide employment in these areas.

    It is also important to identify where smaller areas may have mis-matched wealth levels. An area may look at first glance as if it has a good mix of factories, shops and homes, but on closer examination you might discover that the shops are in fact medium wealth and perhaps the factories might be medium tech? If the residents are all low wealth and many or all are uneducated, that is a receipe for creating unemployment, zone collapse and homeless Sims.


    Having poor education levels in your city also leads to homelessness indirectly if your city has developed medium or high tech industry, but education of some buildings are still low (white on the education data map). Sims living there will not be able to find jobs at industries that require their workers to come from educated residential buildings. This is typically a sign of poor enrollment, so you will either need more buses and classrooms for existing schools, or will need an additional school (of any type).

    For more information:

  • Education
  • Education & Tech Levels
  • Municipal Buses

    Adding a municipal bus depot and bus stops to your city will not fix homelessness directly, however homeless Sims may opt to take municipal buses in order to leave the city. If your city has a lot of homeless Sims then adding this mass transit type may reduce the quantity of homeless, or at least prevent the number from continuing to grow as quickly. It will also help to empty out homeless populations once you have addressed the underlying problems.

    For more information:

  • Roads & Mass Transit: Mass Transit Tips & Problems
  • Policing & Crime

    In various discussions about homelessness on SimCity community sites I've seen a number of people putting forward the idea that homeless Sims can be rounded up by the police if police coverage is good enough, or by crime prevention vans which visit city parks to clear out homeless Sims. Neither of these theories are true. Homeless Sims are NOT considered criminals in SimCity, although the criminal is spawned by similar social problems.


    Because homeless Sims will also take up residence in parks as well as abandoned buildings (and apparently garbage piles if there's too much garbage in the streets), some players opt to shut down or bulldoze city parks in an attempt to clear up homeless Sims. This doesn't work! Yes it does deprive them of a place to squat BUT they don't disappear, they simply wander about the streets looking for abandoned buildings. Removing parks also reduces the happiness of nearby residential buildings, removing $$ and $$$ parks will reduce the land value of nearby areas which can lead to zones reducing their wealth level. If you have a homeless problem in your city the last thing you want to do is increase the volume of low wealth Sims! That will worsen low wealth unemployment and increase the number of Sims who are at significant risk of becoming homeless.

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