The High Cost of Affordability

air pollution

Are you thinking about moving to a new city? If so, affordability is likely one of the attributes you’re looking for in your new home. Especially in retirement, you don’t want to move to a location where you’ll have to keep up with a high cost of living!

But, focusing too much on affordability can be dangerous.

This is particularly true when it’s at the expense of other community attributes that are equally, if not more important to your happiness, health and well-being. Often, a place is affordable for good reason. Sure, you’re saving money, but what are you getting in return?

It’s vital to balance consideration for affordability with other qualities that matter most to you. That way, you don’t end up moving someplace that turns out to be a cheap dud!

How do you do this?

It really all comes down to doing your homework. And, no, this does not mean searching online for those hare-brained “most affordable” or “best” cities to live lists! (The very fact that no two of these lists are alike is reason enough to question their veracity.)

What it does mean is thoroughly researching the facts about a place, both online and in-person, so that you have all the information you need to evaluate where you’ll be happiest living.

To illustrate my point, I researched five cities that ranked at the top of one of a bazillion conflicting “most affordable cities” lists out there to see how they performed in three other key quality of life categories: crime rate, economy, and air quality.

How did these cities fare? Let’s take a look!

Buffalo, New York (2020 Population: 258,071)

Ranked the #1 “most affordable” city on this list, Buffalo did not perform well in the other quality of life categories. Buffalo’s violent crime rate in 2018 was almost three times the national violent crime rate of 380 per 100,000 people and its homicide rate was over four times the national rate of 5 per 100,000 people. Nationally, one in eight people and one in five children live below the poverty line. In Buffalo, however, 30.3% of residents lived below the poverty line – including a shocking 45.9% of children under 18. The American Lung Association’s 2019 State of the Air Report ranked Buffalo 55th out of 228 metropolitan areas for the number of high ozone days.

Kansas City, Missouri (2020 Population: 475,378)

Kansas City, the #2 “most affordable” city on this list, also fell short in the other categories. In 2018, Kansas City’s violent crime rate was over four times the national rate. Its homicide rate was a whopping five and a half times the national rate. About 17% of Kansas City residents lived below the poverty line, including 23% of children under 18. Kansas City ranked 62nd out of 228 metropolitan areas for the number of high ozone days in the 2019 State of the Air Report.

Dayton, Ohio (2020 Population: 140,599)

Dayton, Ohio, which ranked #3 on this “most affordable” cities list, had similar challenges. In 2018, Dayton’s violent crime rate was more than double the national rate. Its murder rate alone was more than five times the national rate. One in three residents, including a distressing 43% of children under 18, lived below the poverty line. Out of 228 metropolitan areas, Dayton ranked 53rd for high ozone days in the 2019 State of the Air Report.

Omaha, Nebraska (2020 Population 443,885)

Occupying the #4 “most affordable city” spot, Omaha, Nebraska fared better in the other categories than other cities on this list. Omaha’s violent crime rate in 2018 was one and a half times the national rate, while its murder rate was equal to the national rate. The poverty rate in Omaha was lower than the national rate. Eleven percent of the population, including 13% of children under 18, lived below the poverty line. The 2019 State of the Air Report ranked Omaha 147th out of 228 metropolitan areas for high ozone days.

Birmingham, Alabama (2020 Population: 212,461)

Ranked #5 on this “most affordable” cities list, Birmingham, Alabama did poorly in the other categories. In 2018, Birmingham’s violent crime rate was five times the national rate. Its staggeringly high murder rate – eight times the national rate – was the third-highest of all U.S. cities. 27% of residents and a disgraceful 44% of children under 18 lived below the poverty line. What’s more, Birmingham had more high ozone days than any other city here, ranking 46th out of 228 metropolitan areas in the 2019 State of the Air Report.

Putting it all into perspective.

Just how affordable are the cities on this particular list?

With median home values ranging from $60,413 (Dayton) to $191,858 (Omaha), the cities featured on this list are more affordable than a lot of U.S. cities.

But there’s so much these numbers don’t tell you. For example:

  • Home values in all these cities are predicted to rise between 1.9% and 5.8% in 2020.
  • All cities on this list, except Omaha, have high violent crime (particularly murder) rates.
  • Three out of five of these cities – Buffalo, Dayton and Birmingham – are among the ten poorest of the top 75 U.S. metropolitan areas, according to Census data.
  • All cities on this list, except Omaha, rank in the top one-third of 228 metropolitan areas with the worst air quality.
  • Any hidden costs of moving to a new state that could make what appears to be an affordable move not so affordable after all.

The importance of digging deeper.

It can be risky to take what you readily find online at face value. Moving to a new city is too large an investment to take lightly. Finding a location that supports the life you want in retirement, where you’ll truly be happy and fulfilled, requires thorough research and planning that is focused on – and driven by – your priorities and needs.

Not into research and planning? Let Your Place Finder help!

Get a detailed Custom Place Prospects Report expertly researched and prepared just for you, one-of-a-kind planning and evaluation tools, and one-on-one consulting/coaching support to help you confidently navigate the search and move to your perfect retirement location – and avoid a costly moving mistake! Click here to learn more about the PlaceFinder Program.

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About the Author

I founded Your Place Finder in 2017 to help retirees and almost retirees like you anticipate and overcome the pitfalls and challenges – and reap the rich rewards – of finding the perfect location to move for retirement.

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