Updated: Sunday, Oct. 24, 1999 at 23:01 CDT

No place like home census, survey shows

By Mitch Mitchell
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Most people across the country are happy with where they live, according to a survey to be released today, and people in Northeast Tarrant County appear to be no exception.

More than half of the 99 million people in a 1997 survey rated their homes and neighborhoods an eight on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest rating possible, according to the survey report.

The results are in the American Housing Survey for the United States: 1997, which was to be released by the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

That happy feeling is echoed in Northeast Tarrant County, from Haltom City to Grapevine.

Debra Goodwin gave her Keller neighborhood a nine on a one-to-10 scale. Her family recently built a house in the Ottinger Road area, and they plan to live in Keller for the next 20 years, she said.

"It doesn't surprise me that people are generally satisfied with where they live," Goodwin said. "Unless there are financial constraints, people usually get to live where they want."

Helen Harris, who lives in Haltom City, also rated her neighborhood a nine.

"I feel like I live in an area that's an excellent place to live," Harris said. "It has children, parks and elementary schools. Housing is affordable."

People are flocking to Northeast Tarrant County because it is an inviting place to live, Harris said. The area's population increased by 25,370 people, or 9.2 percent, between 1992 and 1997, according to the North Central Texas Council of Government.

Frank Breeden, who lives in Grapevine, rated his neighborhood a 10. Breeden said his neighborhood is convenient to his job at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport and to the Metroplex and has all the facilities anyone could want.

Breeden is not surprised most Americans are happy with where they live.

"I think that kind of reflects our country," Breeden said. "There's a feeling of freedom, the jobless rate is low. The country as a whole feels good about itself."

Nationally, the number of people who rated their homes and neighborhoods eight or better was 59 percent in the Midwest and South, 58 percent in the Northeast, and 53 percent in the West.

Of the 99 million people surveyed, about 82 percent (about 81 million) were satisfied with their neighborhoods, 54 percent rated their public transportation good, and about a third were satisfied with their neighborhood schools. Fifteen percent said they had problems with their neighborhood, said William Hartnett, Census Bureau survey statistician.

The study, which began in 1973 as an analysis of changes in housing stock, added the neighborhood questionnaires in 1985, Hartnett said. The study is conducted every two years, he said.

There's little doubt how Charma Meek-Beck, who lives in Grapevine, would answer the questions. She said she likes her neighborhood because it's loaded with children, caring families and great neighbors. People care for one another.

"Grapevine is pretty spectacular," Meek-Beck said. "Taxes are always going down. Police protection is good. I've lived all over the world and never been in a city like Grapevine. They are always trying to make it better. They really pay attention to what you ask, and it's really kind of rare."

Other findings of the report included:

* There are 99.5 million occupied housing units in the United States, with owners living in 65.5 million units and renters in the rest.

* The housing stock includes 62.1 million single detached homes, 6.5 million mobile homes and the rest in attached homes and apartments.

* An estimated 77 million homes are in metropolitan areas, and 22 million are in rural locations.

* The median home size was 5.4 rooms. That means half had more than that and half fewer. Homes were biggest in the Midwest, 5.6 rooms, and smallest in the West, 5.2. In the Northeast the median was 5.5, and it was 5.4 in the South.

* The largest share of homes, 44 million, had one complete bathroom while 39 million had two or more.

* More than 2 million homes lacked a complete kitchen.

* There were 49 million homes with central air conditioning and 25 million had window air conditioners.

* Warm-air furnaces are the most common form of heating, warming 59 million homes. Second was steam or hot water at 13 million, followed by 11 million electric heat pumps, 6 million with built-in floor or wall units and 4 million with built-in electric heaters.

* Piped gas was the most common heating fuel, serving 51 million homes. Electricity was used by 24 million, followed by fuel oil, 10 million and bottled gas, 5 million.

* There were 286,000 homes without a toilet, 328,000 did not have a tub or shower, and 385,000 were without piped hot water.

* The vast majority, 88 million homes, were connected to a central water supply and 11 million had wells. There were 77 million homes connected to public sewer systems and 22 million using septic tanks, cesspools or chemical toilets.

This report contains material from The Associated Press.

Mitch Mitchell, (817) 685-3807