Is Boston Still One of the Best Places To Live? Not So Much, Says Latest U.S. News Ranking

Killer rents, pricey homes, and the exorbitant cost of living may be catching up to us.

Boston, MA - Charles River Aerial Photography Downtown

Photo via Getty Images/ Cavan Images

Boston’s had a bit of a rough year. Housing costs have continued to rise, the T has had something of a PR crisis with fires and slower trains, and we’ve had a few high-profile crimes make the national news. The hits, unfortunately, just keep coming. Today, U.S. News & World Report released its annual Best Places to Live, and out of the top 150 metro areas in the country, Boston dropped from a respectable No. 18 to No. 44 in this year’s rankings. Meanwhile, our northern neighbor Portland, Maine remained in the top 10.

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The culprit behind this fall from grace? Boston’s cost of living. U.S. News and World Report’s real estate expert Devon Thorsby explained to Boston that, for the first time, the media company factored the cost of goods into this year’s rankings. The list is compiled using four factors—quality of life, desirability, job market, and value (which measures the area’s affordability). These factors are measured using FBI and Department of Labor stats, U.S. Census data, and survey results from across the country. This year, the costs services and goods—like the increasing price of groceries or the amount you’re spending to have a handyman come to fix your toilet—was weighed into that value index.

The change “was to take into account things like inflation,” Thorsby says. “Housing isn’t the only things people have to spend money on…Affordability and cost of living is the biggest reason Boston fell this year.”

Unfortunately, the price we pay to live here knocked Boston’s other benefits—like the access to incredible schools and low crime rate—straight out of the (dirty) water. And with good reason: Thorsby said the rankings found Boston to be the 11th priciest place to live out of the 150 metro areas U.S. News and World Report evaluates. While most other metro areas have residents paying a median of 24 percent of their income on housing, in Boston, the median is more than 27 percent.

However, Boston continues to shine for other reasons, particularly its hospitals, higher-ed institutions, and job-providing tech companies. Plus, people overall are pretty happy to be here, even though becoming a homeowner is increasingly out of reach.

“Boston ranks number 44 this year which is certainly not anything to sneeze at,” reassures Thorsby. “People in the Boston area are reporting they’re happy. There just seems to be that affordability aspect.”

While we did fall a whopping 26 slots from 2022, Boston continues to be the most desirable metropolitan area in Massachusetts. Worcester finished No. 77, falling from No. 69 in 2022; Springfield ranked No. 108, rising slightly from its previous No. 117 spot. In fact, Portland, Maine was the only place in pricey New England to outrank Boston, coming in at No. 7 overall.

“We do see that affordability aspect play a bigger role,” Thorsby says. “We see people put bigger emphasis on that, as well as the quality of life.”