America's Best Affordable Places, 2011
As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. Unfortunately in real estate, value is a trade-off. Someone in Manhattan is willing to pay $2,200 per month to rent a studio apartment so as to be near jobs and cultural amenities, sacrificing square footage. For someone in Las Vegas, where housing is inexpensive—the city's median home value is about $115,000, according to real estate site Zillow.com—and the labor market is tough, the reverse is true. What if you could have both proximity to work and quality of life at an affordable cost?
While this may sound too good to be true, it's the status quo in some places.
In an exclusive ranking for Businessweek.com, Bloomberg Rankings analyzed government-gathered data on more than 3,000 counties across the U.S. to select the best affordable place in each state. We then scored each county by state. Next we tallied the top-ranked county in each state to arrive at a national ranking. Factors that were most heavily weighted include housing cost, crime, unemployment, and educational attainment in the county, in addition to such other metrics as family income, poverty, commute time, air quality, diversity, and share of families with children.
The Midwest made out well in the ranking. No. 1 on Bloomberg's list: North Dakota's Cass County, home to Fargo and West Fargo. Other areas with high scores include Brown County, S.D., Cleveland County, Okla. (in the West South Central region), Story County, Iowa, and Olmsted County, Minn.
Coastal states with high unemployment such as California, Florida, and Rhode Island ranked lower, as did states with a generally high cost of living, such as Hawaii.
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