Austin continues to slide from its yearslong reign over the US News and World Report’s annual list of best places to live, dropping from third to fifth place this year. The self-declared “global authority in rankings and consumer advice” released its 150 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2021-2022 report Wednesday.
Coming in first through fourth places (in descending order) are: Boulder, Colorado; Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina; Huntsville, Alabama; and Fayetteville, Arkansas.
While Austin had topped the list since 2017, the past two years have seen it drop in the estimation of the site’s analysts, due in large part to the city’s ongoing affordability issues. That trend will surprise possibly no one—certainly not most Austinites. In the past few years, the deluge of money and jobs from tech and other industries—many seeking lower taxes and lower pay scales—has led to rapid population growth, coupled with a lack of available housing and other resources to meet the needs of new and longtime residents alike. Or, as US News puts it: “Austin attracts transplants from other states, in part because Texas doesn’t have personal or corporate income tax. … As with many other places in the country, home prices in Austin have risen sharply in recent months, however. Austin offers a lower value than similarly-sized metro areas when comparing housing costs with median household income.”
“Value,” in this case, means primarily home prices—and it means a lot in the US News ranking calculations; its “Value/Housing Affordability Index” makes up almost 24 percent of a city’s total score. There are five categories used in the number-crunching, with each given a different weight: a Quality of Life Index, at 26 percent; the aforementioned Value Index (also called the Housing Affordability Index) with 23.7 percent; a Job Market Index, weighted at 21.2 percent; a Desirability Index at 16.3 percent; and Net Migration at 12.8 percent. Data comes from the US Census Bureau, the US Department of Labor, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and “internal resources” at US News.
The report scores Austin’s value at 6.5 (out of 10), while the city ranks at 7 or above in the other categories. Its overall score is 7.3. US News has also ranked it as the best place to live in Texas, at No. 13 in fastest-growing places, and the 29th best place to retire in the country.