A Hometown with You in Mind?

A new book rating more than 400 U.S. metropolitan areas taps Gainesville, Fla., as the best place to live in the country. In the second edition of “Cities Ranked & Rated,” authors Bert Sperling and Peter Sander give the “right-sized university town” high marks on such measures as economy and jobs; commuting time; cost of living; climate; education; health and health care; housing affordability; crime; transportation; leisure; arts and culture; and “quality of life,” which includes physical setting, downtown core, heritage, and appearance.

The study’s metrics might prompt guffaws in Tent City, where, according to a recent article in the Gainesville Sun, more than 100 people face eviction, with no place else to go. Or among the city’s “bridge dwellers,” who have ample opportunity to sample the climate in their open-air residences beneath highway overpasses. As the Sun reports, “With nearly 400 people without shelter on any given night and an abundance of urban forest, Gainesville is a city dotted with homeless campsites.”

Gainesville’s slogan, “A hometown with you in mind,” is hard to square with life in a place where the most creative solutions for Tent City are more police patrols and fences to keep the homeless at a discreet distance from well-housed Gainesvillians basking in their number-one status.

Asked whether his research took the absence of affordable housing for low-income people into account, co-author Sander said, “We’re looking through the average family’s lens,” adding, “We go to the National Association of Realtors, and we get the median price for homes. If I were able to get the high end or the low end, you would probably see more of that kind of research in the book.”

Shelterforce is the only independent, non-academic publication covering the worlds of community development, affordable housing, and neighborhood stabilization.


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