When the South’s top-ranked community for quality of life is full of McMansions

I think there is some annoyance in this article that On Numbers named West University Place that top suburb in the South for quality of life. How do I know? The reference to McMansions is a hint…

What makes a suburb an awesome suburb? If you said McMansions, refreshing homogeneity and a proximity to a Chili’s restaurant, then have we got a suburb for you.

Houston’s ritziest city-within-a-city, West University Place, was named the ‘burb with the best quality of life in the South by On Numbers.

On Numbers, a Business Journals publication, looked at more than 1,100 cities, towns, villages, municipalities and otherwise census-designated places with populations greater than 10,000 from Maryland to Texas, and graded them on 20 criteria, including household income, poverty rate, length of commute, percentage of professional workers, the percentage of homes that were built after 1990, and the rate of adults that have advanced degrees.

I don’t know if West University Place has a lot of McMansions but this comment seems fairly pointed. The McMansions are tied to bland suburbia, full of homogeneity (race? social class? attitudes and beliefs?) and chain restaurants.

For the record, On Numbers argues that they chose this community because of its high education levels:

Many streets in the Houston suburb are named after colleges, authors or poets. Rice University is located nearby. And 85 percent of West University Place’s adults hold bachelor’s degrees, the highest percentage in any Southern community.

This strong educational background is a key reason why West University Place ranks No. 1 in On Numbers’ quality-of-life standings for the Southern United States.

This is a wealthy community – a median household income of just over $180k and a median house value of over $660k – so it makes sense that it has a high quality-of-life.

The negative comment does raise some questions about quality-of-life measures. Should it include something like community atmosphere or history? Should a community be knocked down the list if it full of mass culture? Can you pick up on something like this from 20 statistics? Without a visit to the community, it would be hard. Additionally, the ratings privilege a more recent housing stock (homes built since 1990) and big houses (percent with 9+ rooms). New does not necessarily equal quality.

In order to put rankings like these together, you have to have a certain idea about what Americans want in their communities.

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