DC area trends slightly downward on US News ‘Best Places to Live’ for 2020

If you’ve grumbled about the cost of living in D.C., rest assured you are absolutely not alone — it is one of the big reasons why the District slid down U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Places to Live” list for 2020 and 2021.

Devon Thorsby, real estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, said that its lists took into account a number of data points to rank metropolitan areas.

Those data points include affordability of housing, strength of the job market, quality of life, education and hospitals, crime rates and overall well-being of residents, among others.

Using that data, U.S. News & World Report compiled a list of best places to live and best places to retire in 2020 and 2021.

U.S. News also conducted a survey that measured an area’s desirability, asking respondents where they would move if they had the option. They then looked at metropolitan areas’ growth rates to see whether people were actually following through on those desires, Thorsby said.

In something of an upset, Boulder, Colorado, took the top spot on the list.

Austin, Texas, which spent several years in the No. 1 position took third, also falling behind Denver, Colorado.

“The top — what we really see is high desirability and a strong job market,” Thorsby said. “We definitely see that, I think, those two kind of go hand-in-hand a little bit more than people might necessarily assume.”

D.C. came in at No. 30 on the list of best places to live this year, which is a slide from its 2019 No. 19 position. Thorsby said that have been due in part to the high cost of living in the District. D.C. has been sluggish to grow over a five-year period.

“It shouldn’t be that much of a surprise — D.C. became a little bit more expensive as it tends to do year-to-year … and falling a little bit in desirability,” she said.

“The biggest reason for the fall however was the net migration … the Washington D.C. area, due to net migration alone, only grew by a little over 1% during those five years.”

Sarasota, Florida, ranked at the top for best places to retire, and Florida secured seven of the top 10 positions on the list. Thorsby said the lower tax rates and warm weather were some of the driving factors that gave the sunshine state a bump.

The District also landed at No. 45 among the best places to retire, and Thorsby said that was largely thanks to the wealth of activities the area has.

“There’s a lot of things you can do and the activities in the surrounding area are something that really appeal to people,” she said.

Salisbury, Maryland, ranked at No. 90 on the “Best Places to Live” list, but scored much higher on the retirement list — coming in at No. 26.

Baltimore landed at No. 117 on places to live, and No. 76 when it came to retirement.

Thorsby did note that the data points used to determine the rankings were gathered before the COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed the way cities operated. She said because it could be a year or more before the long-term effects of the pandemic are known, U.S. News stayed away from factoring too much post-COVID data into their rankings.

“We did redo our desirability survey in late August this year to kind of factor in details about … how cities’ reputations … from other people in the U.S. may have changed,” Thorsby said. “Either from the pandemic or due to civil unrest.”

WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this report.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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