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Austin dropped to 40th best metro area over affordability issues

A city skyline is reflected in the water
Michael Minasi

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Once holding the top spot, Austin has dropped to the 40th best metro area to live in, according to the latest rankings by U.S. News & World Report.

The report, which has come out every year since 2016, ranks the country's most populous metro areas. Austin was No. 1 from 2017 to 2019, but has been sliding ever since. Last year Austin ranked 13th.

Devon Thorsby, a real estate editor with U.S. News & World Report, said she considers Austin’s 40th overall ranking to still be “really great.”

“People still love the idea of moving to Austin and plenty of people are still doing it," she said.

The report ranks cities on four major indices: the job market, desirability, value and quality of life.

In 2017, Austin earned an overall score of 7.8 out of 10. This year, while still beating out other Texas metro areas — including San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth — the city earned a 6.4.

But scores overall were lower. Even this year’s top metro area, Green Bay, Wis., earned only a 6.9.

Thorsby said that’s attributable, in part, to lower scores in the value index, which evaluates how comfortably the average resident can afford to live in a city. The costs of housing, as well as goods and services, are considered.

To measure housing affordability, the report compares housing prices (for homeowners and renters) to median family incomes. In 2017, the report found Austin offered a better value than similarly sized metro areas. But in this year’s rankings (which used housing costs from 2021), that was no longer the case.

Thorsby said Austin ranked 100 out of the 150 metro areas in terms of housing affordability.

And for the price parity index — measuring the costs of typical goods and services like groceries or hiring a handyman — Austin ranked 113 out of 150.

“We do our best to make the rankings show what people are prioritizing most across the U.S., but the rankings aren’t the end all be all," she said. "Somebody might find from their own priorities or what they’re looking at that a place that technically ranks No. 98 could be the best place for them.”

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Sangita Menon is a general assignment reporter for KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @sangitamenon.
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