Which City Offers Best Quality Of Life?
Survey Compares Housing Market, Quality Of Life
Los Angeles, New York and Chicago offer its residents world-renowned museums, some of the best sports teams in the country and the latest, trendiest restaurants. On the flip side, those same residents contend with unbearable commutes and an astronomical housing market.
Is it possible to have the former without the latter? The answer is yes – and Forbes ranked the affordable cities that offer a good, or even better, quality of life, where you can get more for your dollar.
In a nutshell, the “City of Lakes” offers its residents a high quality of life, access to a variety of leisure and arts and entertainment offerings, along with relatively affordable housing. Minneapolis is also home to a number of companies, including Target and Cargill, which donate significant sums of money to the city’s health services, cultural institutions and schools. This contributes to the city’s quality of life and enriches the residents’ arts and leisure choices. Minneapolis has some of the best cultural institutions in the country, including the Guthrie Theater, considered to be one of the country’s premier facilities.
Indianapolis has a higher percentage of homes available to the median-earning resident than any other city. When it comes to arts and leisure activities, Indianapolis ranked 30th out of the 50 biggest cities, but the city makes up for it by being an affordable place to live - it’s the 13th cheapest city to live in.
Cincinnati is one of the most affordable cities in the country in terms of cost of living and housing. Median-earning residents here can afford more than 75 percent of the homes on the market and since it’s the fifth-cheapest city to live in, they have extra cash on hand.
St. Louis’ housing market is unique for its relative stability, compared to other Midwestern cities, St. Louis has a lower number of risky loans and defaults. There’s also a strong ratio of parks and restaurants to citizens.
Since 2000, Houston has added nearly 1 million new people, making it one of the country’s fastest-growing cities. A strong job market and affordable housing are drawing people from all over the country. Over the last five years, Houston has invested millions in expanding infrastructure by bolstering the downtown business district and funding the arts, which is helping to centralize the city. And on an everyday cost basis, Houston is the cheapest place to live among the cities studied.
Milwaukee’s strong tradition of charitable giving and civic involvement helped create cultural institutions as well as fund the arts. Sperling’s Best Places rank Milwaukee 21st for its combination of museums, sports outlets, universities and parks. And the Council on Community and Economic Research ranks the city’s cost of living at the national average.
Dallas, like Houston, is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, but it’s more centralized than Houston, with better air quality and better public transportation. It follows Houston slightly when it comes to museums, libraries, sports, theaters and universities, but Dallas’s cost of living is slightly higher, which is why it ranked behind Houston.
Pittsburgh is more than just the hometown of the Steelers, Pirates and Peguins. The Carnegie Museum, the Andy Warhol Museum and the Mattress Factory (a contemporary art museum) call the city home and enliven its art scene. Housing is the 11th cheapest in the country, but the area’s cost of living is slightly above the national average.
Columbus is home to Ohio State, the biggest university in the country. Columbus gets high marks for health care, as its residents have access to the Ohio State University Medical Center. The city’s cost of living is just below the national average, and more than 75 percent of homes were available to the median-income earner, making it the seventh most affordable real estate market.
Atlanta is the nation’s fastest growing city of more than 5 million people, and serves as a model for how land use and development can be coordinated to keep housing prices affordable. The city’s quality of life rankings and arts and leisure grades fall in the middle, but it ranks 11th best as far as cost of living.
The rankings came about from a variety of metrics.
Housing affordability in the country’s 50 largest metros was tracked using the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index. This measures how much local housing is affordable to the median income earner at present mortgage rates.
The cost of living index, developed by The Council on Community and Economic Research, took into account how much each city’s residents spend on goods such as energy and clothing. The quality of life was determined by a Forbes index based on 2006 Census figures measuring quality of schools and health care, crime and poverty rates.
Data from Sperling’s Best Places identified the country’s best arts and leisure destinations, measuring everything from music venues and museums to professional sports teams. Sperling’s ranks each city on each category relative to the others, then determines an overall ranking.