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The affordability conundrum

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The affordability conundrum

If there is one category Rockford ranks consistency well it is affordability. The most recent example was an analysis by GoBankingRates.com on the cities where a paycheck stretches furthest. GoBankingRates looked at median household income, median monthly home-owner costs, median gross rent and cost of living.

In that ranking, Rockford came in No. 1.

Cities Where Paychecks Stretch Furthest

Rank

City

HH inc.

Home costs

Median rent

Cost of Living Score

1.

Rockford, Illinois

$40,143

$1,132

$728

79.7

2.

Parkersburg, W.Va.

$34,296

$838

$607

80.2

3.

Fort Wayne, Ind.

$44,449

$938

$670

81.2

4.

Fort Smith, Ark.

$35,956

$950

$617

82.1

5.

Springfield, Mo.

$33,769

$911

$676

84.3

6.

Wichita, Kansas

$46,775

$1,184

$716

84.6

7.

Green Bay, Wis.

$43,473

$1,173

$655

87.3

8.

Davenport, Iowa

$48,191

$1,141

$707

89.5

9.

Aberdeen, S.D.

$46,330

$1,079

$602

94.7

10.

Great Falls, Mont.

$43,497

$1,149

$613

95.4

For years, Rockford has used its affordability as a marketing tool. As a metro area sitting in the middle of Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Chicago, Rockford has tried to lure professionals working in those areas to move to Boone and Winnebago counties because you can buy so much more house than what you can get in those cities.

There was some success with that in the 2000s as Boone County expanded rapidly as upper-income professionals working in the suburb fueled a building boom. That momentum stopped with the start of the Great Recession. The flip side of affordability is that people with college education and in-demand job skills command higher salaries and can move to metro areas that aren’t as affordable. People who don’t have in-demand job skills have to live in affordable areas such as Rockford.

A Forbes look at the least affordable cities is a good illustration. Forbes pegged Kings County, New York, where Brooklyn is located, as the least affordable. Kings County’s population age 25 and above is made up of 34.1 percent of people who have a bachelor’s degree or better and a median income of $50,640. Marin County, the second-least affordable city, has a population made up of 57.1 percent of people with bachelor’s degrees or higher and a median household income of $100,310. Only 21.1 percent of Rockford’s population age 25 and above have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

While researching affordability, we came across a much more extensive ranking done by Niche.com. Researchers there looked at a much larger set of criteria to determine cities with the lowest cost of living. Niche.com weighed public schools, crime, housing, nightlife, families, diversity, jobs, weather, cost of living, health and fitness, outdoor activities and commute times.

In the Niche.com “Cities With The Lowest Cost of Living” rankings, Rockford came in a respectable No. 33. Niche gave cities school grades (A-F with most grades tending towards B’s and A’s) and Rockford received B+ or higher in nightlife (B+), diversity (A+), cost of living (B+), outdoor activities (A-) and commute times (B+). Rockford’s overall grade is a B-. Several of the cities ranked ahead of Rockford on the cost of living ranking received an A- or A, including No. 25 DesMoines, Iowa; No. 15, Abilene, Texas (A-) and No. 1, Fort Wayne, Ind. (A-).

Niche.com does a number of other rankings and here’s where it’s telling that affordability is essentially the polar opposite of desirability. Of the 25 cities in the top 25 in the Niche.com cost of living ranking, only two were in the top 100 of Niche.com’s “Best Cities to Live” rankings. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which came in No. 12 on the cost of living ranking was 79th in the best cities ranking. And Sioux Falls, S.D., enjoying the oil drilling boom, finished No. 13 on the cost of living index and No. 49 on the best cities list.

As Transform Rockford strives to make Rockford one of those 25 best cities to live in, it will mean keeping and attracting higher-educated, skilled workers to fill in-demand, well-paying industries, whether it be tech or highly-skilled manufacturing. If those things happen, it will raise demand for homes and apartments in Rockford, which will mean higher prices. One can’t happen without the other.

Niche.com Best Cities to Live comparison

 

Rockford

Fort Collins, Colo.

Naperville, Ill.

Ann Arbor, Mich.

Best Cities ranking

#25

#2

#1

Overall Niche ranking

B-

A+

A+

A+

Public Schools

B-

A

A+

A+

Crime & Safety

C-

B-

B+

B-

Housing

C+

B-

A-

B

Nightlife

B+

A+

B+

A

Good for families

B-

A

A+

A+

Diversity

A+

B+

A

A

Jobs

C+

B+

A-

B+

Weather

C+

B+

C+

C

Cost of Living

B+

C-

C+

C+

Health & Fitness

C+

A

A+

A-

Outdoor Activities

A-

A

A

A

Commute

B+

A

A-

A+

 

 


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