Don't Hate on Life in the Suburbs

There has been an ongoing debate about whether it's a better choice to live in a large city or in its suburbs, and it doesn't look like that argument is going away anytime soon. People on both sides of the issue have made good points about the advantages and disadvantages of urban or suburban life, but looking online, the "Living in the suburbs sucks!" links seem to pop up in greater abundance than articles about the perks of living outside a city. The consensus among the anti-suburb folks seems to be that suburbanites have to deal with long, frustrating commutes and don't get to enjoy the same cultural and quality-of-life amenities that those living inside cities do. Time magazine recently even published an article with the thesis that suburban living makes people more selfish, further fueling the argument that there's somehow something wrong with people who choose to live in the ’burbs.

Houston is an interesting study in urban development, partially because of an eagerness to embrace redevelopment and expansion over preservation, and that's been part of life here for ages. Houston's one of those cities that fell in love with postwar car culture, and the new neighborhoods that developed outside its borders from the mid-20th century drew in plenty of residents looking for modern living detached from the downsides of urban life.

Working downtown but residing many miles away is a lifestyle that's been eagerly embraced by generations of Houstonians. Plenty of those older suburbs like Sharpstown have since been absorbed by the city, resulting in the development of suburban communities further and further away from Houston's central core. For a long time, large parts of Inner Loop Houston were considered blighted or in decline, and those who could afford to generally flocked to the suburbs. After years of redevelopment and gentrification, many of the older central neighborhoods have re-emerged as both trendy and increasingly expensive places to live, leading many of the residents living there to wonder why anyone would want to live in the suburbs. Here are a few good reasons some people still prefer life in the suburbs over living in town.

5. The Cost of Home Ownership Is Often Lower.

Houston is considered by many people an affordable city, but for a person looking to buy a home, the central neighborhoods can be prohibitively expensive. Of course, there are a lot of variables affecting home prices in and around Houston, and suburbs around the city vary greatly from one another, but as a general rule, home shoppers will often find more space for less money when they look at the communities outside the city.

4. Free Parking.

It seems as if central Houston is becoming one of those areas where a person has to either pay for parking or fight for the small number of free spots available. Just going to certain grocery stores can involve you in a pre-shopping gladiatorial battle over spaces in certain parts of central Houston, and that's not a lot of fun. Sure, that sort of thing can occasionally happen anywhere, but I can't recall the last time I was forced to pay to park or had a hard time finding a space out in the 'burbs. Lower population density and more room for lots seems to make finding a parking space less of an ordeal most of the time.

3. A Quieter, Less Hectic Lifestyle.

Some people thrive on the nonstop hustle-and-bustle atmosphere of living in the middle of a huge city, but others prefer a slightly more laid-back approach to life, and for them the suburbs might be more ideal. Again, neighborhoods both inside Houston and surrounding it vary a lot, so it's an oversimplification to say that suburban life is automatically more relaxed or quiet than living in the city, but a lot of people seem to feel that's a perk of living further out.

2. Privacy and Space.

Sure, there are neighborhoods in Houston where residents have plenty of space, but city life often makes it feel like a person has to deal with other people more directly. There's nothing wrong with that, but as time goes by, most cities have become denser in population, and after a while there are trade-offs in both privacy and personal space. The ongoing battle over the proposed "Ashby High Rise" has residents of the upscale neighborhood around its construction site protesting over both the loss of privacy and the addition of traffic they fear will befall their community if the building is finally erected. They essentially want to stave off the type of development that most cities are known for, almost as if they were living in a suburb — but one located in the center of Houston. For people who wish to avoid that sort of development, or who are unable to launch a lengthy legal battle to prevent it, living in a suburb might make more sense.

1. Family-Friendliness.

Researching this article, another common opinion I encountered was that many suburbs are thought to be more "family-friendly" than life in a big city. The consensus was that many suburbs were master-planned communities designed to offer families the types of amenities that aren't necessarily guaranteed to folks buying or renting a home inside a city. Large, affordable, single-family homes built near commercial and recreational areas carefully designed to cater to families living there are pretty standard in many modern suburbs, but that isn't necessarily true of all urban neighborhoods. Proximity to good schools and well-designed roads and infrastructure are all perks of living in a suburb that many people seem to value, and make the choice of living outside a city much more attractive to them. Suburbs are sometimes criticized for being "bland" or lacking the character of life in a major city, but to a lot of people, the convenience and comfort they feel is offered by suburban living is a welcome trade.

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