Study: 'Burbs aren't so cheap


by Gabe Gutierrez / 11 News

Posted on March 24, 2010 at 6:57 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 24 at 7:05 PM

HOUSTON -- A national study released Wednesday suggests that suburban living is more costly after transportation costs are factored in.

The findings by the Center for Neighborhood Research contradict a commonly-held belief that living outside urban areas is a better value.

Traffic has become a way of life for Mona Satoodeh.

"It's a nightmare," she said.

She and her husband, James Hadaegh, commute from Northwest Harris County to downtown Houston every day. They each spend at least an hour and a half daily on the road.

"For my type of job I have to have my vehicle with me, so traffic has always been my issue," he said.

The couple figures their commuting costs add up to more than a third of their mortgage.

The nationwide study suggests they're not alone. The Center For Neighborhood Research found that just 40 percent of U.S. communities are "affordable" when you factor in transportation costs.

Obama administration officials and members of Congress are reviewing the document, which advocates better public transportation in 337 of the country's metro areas.

"Transportation in Texas and in Houston is a significant investment," said Sarah Schimmer, a spokeswoman for AAA Texas. "Not only do you have your gas prices, but you've got your regular maintenance and insurance to put on that car."

The survey estimated that living out in many Houston suburbs may cost less than 30 percent of a family's income. But if suburbanites tack on costly commutes, they're often forced to pay more than 45 percent of their household's annual income.

Still, for some commuters, money isn't everything.

"There are other factors. For us, we're close to his parents and grandma can come help out when you have sick kids," Setoodeh said.