Phoenix, Tucson Gain Ground as Desirable Places to Live, U.S. News & World Report Study Says

Article originally posted on AZ Central on July 15, 2021

An aerial view of  downtown Phoenix on July 21, 2016.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Arizona’s two largest cities might be better places to live, relatively speaking.

Both Phoenix and Tucson gained ground in the “best places to live” study from U.S. News & World Report. Phoenix rose 13 places to number 40 in the newly released study, while Tucson jumped to the 81st spot from 113.

However, neither Arizona city was anywhere the top, where the most-desirable award went to Boulder, Colorado, followed by a string of Southern cities: Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina; Huntsville, Alabama; Fayetteville, Arkansas and Austin, Texas.

San Juan in Puerto Rico finished last of the 150 metro areas examined, one spot below Visalia, California.

Boulder also placed first in the previous study released in October 2020, followed by Denver, Austin, and two other Colorado cities — Colorado Springs and Fort Collins.

The study evaluated metro areas in five key areas: job market, housing affordability, net migration, desirability and quality of life. Desirability was largely measured on where a survey of 3,600 respondents said they’d like to live. Quality of life evaluated attributes including crime, health-care availability, education, wellbeing and commute times.

Tourism hubs suffer

Cities such as Las Vegas with a heavy tourism dependence fared worse, though that might change as the pandemic eases.

“Many metro areas that saw unemployment levels skyrocket in 2020 fell in the rankings, but those with greater employment stability tended to fare well,” said Devon Thorsby, real estate editor at U.S. News.

Las Vegas plummeted 50 spots to No. 137, San Diego dropped 52 spots to 97 and Honolulu slipped 42 spots to 113.

Housing affordability and other cost-of-living issues hurt some areas more than others.

“As people solidify their plans to work remotely, struggle to find a house in a hot housing market or consider a cross-country move, a low cost of living is even more important,” Thorsby said.