Texas Cities Lead US for Downtown Quality of Life

By Mike Christen  –  Austin Business Journal

Austin, Dallas and Houston are leading the nation in terms of downtown living, according to a recent analysis.

The Texas cities earned high rankings in an analysis of living conditions in the 30 most populated cities in the United States conducted by Yardi Systems Inc., a real estate software company, and StorageCafe, a Yardi subsidiary tracking data on the self-storage industry.

Dallas took the No. 1 spot, Austin was No. 2 and Houston came in at No. 7.

Dallas was lauded for its variety of downtown amenities, along with a wave of new urban core development in a city traditionally associated with sprawl. Apartments in its downtown average more than 995 square feet of space per person, according to the study.

It was also recognized for its downtown entertainment scene, thanks to the large number of theaters and restaurants.

Austin was recognized as a leading city for environmentally friendly downtown living, with half of its large-scale rental inventory made up of apartment buildings certified with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, more than any other city in the analysis.

The capital city's embrace of the environment is also reflected in the prolific green space that permeates downtown, including the 351-acre Zilker Park, which hosts the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Apartments in downtown Austin average 939 square feet per person, according to the analysis by Yardi and StorageCafe, a number associated with the area's lean toward luxury units: 73% of the units in the urban core are located in high-end buildings. Austin was also found to be one of the safest downtowns in the Yardi rankings.

Houston was recognized as the most affordable downtown analyzed with a 22% rent-to-income ratio.

Its central district is also growing significantly with a total of 15,000 units built between 2012 and 2022.

Here is the full top 10 ranking from Yardi and StorageCafe:

  • Dallas, Texas
  • Austin, Texas
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Houston, Texas
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • San Diego, California
  • Phoenix, Arizona

Doug Ressler, business intelligence manager at Yard Matrix, the company's market intelligence division, said the study reflects the ongoing shift in focus toward downtown America, and each community's effort bolsters that growth with enticing new residences.

"Many cities have made good strides toward creating inclusive urban environments with livability and sustainability key in achieving future-ready status," Ressler stated. "Downtown areas across the country have seen intensified multifamily construction as more people seek walkability and better connectivity in their neighborhoods. Southern hubs — which have been on migration radars for over a decade now – have had their central areas enhanced and reinvented to respond to current resident needs. Dallas and Austin in Texas and Nashville, Tennessee, are just some of the cities that offer the live-work-play concept in their downtown areas."

Yardi formed the list by reviewing each city’s cost of living including looking at the local rent to income ratio and cost of groceries, apartment inventory, number of units in green buildings, number of units in luxury buildings, apartment personal living space, safety, access to fitness centers, public electric vehicle chargers, recreation opportunities and the education level of the community’s population. Data were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Energy and Council for Community and Economic Research.

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