Best Affordable Suburbs 2009

BusinessWeek

State by state, the most affordable suburbs that offer the lowest crime rate, finest schools, and best quality of life for the dollar

Housing prices across the nation are being flattened by the worst economic crisis in decades. But it’s still not necessarily easy to find affordable suburbs with good schools, low crime, reasonable commutes, strong economies and a good quality of life. That’s where BusinessWeek can help. We’ve selected one affordable suburb near the biggest city in each state where residents can find the best quality of life for their money in 2009.

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Editor’s Note: The selected suburbs were limited to towns within 25 miles of the most populated city, with populations of 5,000 to 60,000 people, median family incomes of $51,000 to $120,000, and lower-than average crime rates.  We weighted a variety of factors including livability (short commutes, low pollution, green space), education (well-educated residents, high test scores), crime (low personal and property crime), economy (high job growth, low unemployment rate, high family income), and affordability (median household income, cost of expenditures). Affordability was most heavily weighted in our calculations. We penalized places with bad weather, a lack of racial diversity, high divorce rates, and few children. Household median income, which is derived from U.S. Census data, and the median home price are 2008 projections. The Unemployment rate comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is for 2007. The Violent Crime index, which is based on FBI crime statistics, is a weighted index of the most recently available seven years (“100” is the national average for violent crime, so “100” would be twice the national average and “50” would be half the national average). The commute time is the median travel time for residents in the area, and is not necessarily the time it takes to reach the largest major city.

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1. Pewaukee, Wisconsin

Nearest major city: Milwaukee
Population: 12,789 
Median household income: $83,627
Median home price: $267,500
Unemployment rate: 4%
Violent crime index: 13

Pewaukee, where homes overlook the 2,493-acre spring-fed Pewaukee Lake, is about 20 minutes from Milwaukee. The lake is used for boating, fishing and other water activities. About 37% of residents are married with children. Average commutes are 19 minutes.

2. Mill Creek, Washington
 
Nearest major city: Seattle
Population: 13,626  
Median household income: $83,818
Median home price: $398,000
Unemployment rate: 4%
Violent crime index: 24

Mill Creek, a Seattle suburb incorporated in 1983, has an 18-hole golf course, trails, parks, and a mall. About 36% of residents are married with children. Average commutes are 29 minutes.

3. Brandon, South Dakota

Nearest major city: Sioux Falls
Population: 6,793   
Median household income: $71,405
Median home price: N/A
Unemployment rate: 2.5%
Violent crime index: 21 

Fast-growing Brandon is a suburb east of Sioux Falls, known for its good schools and has great access to nearby nature parks, such as the Beaver Creek Nature Area. About 48% of residents are married with children. The average commute is 19 minutes.

4. Munford, Tennessee
 
Nearest major city: Memphis
Population: 5,476
Median household income: $53,931
Median home price: $142,500
Unemployment rate: 5.2%
Violent crime index: 3

Munford, 25 miles north of Memphis, is a small town in Tipton County, which was voted the third safest rural community in America by The Progressive Farmer, an agricultural and country living magazine. The Munford High School band won the state championship in 2007. About 40% of residents are married with children. The average commute is 32 minutes.

A previous version incorrectly named Bartlett, also in Tipton County, as the best affordable suburb in Tennessee. 5. East Norriton, Pennsylvania
 
Nearest major city: Philadelphia
Population: 13,530  
Median household income: $73,773
Median home price: $242,500
Unemployment rate: 3.4%
Violent crime index: 11

East Norriton, a former farming community 22 miles north of Philadelphia, has a mix of stores, offices, industrial areas, single-family homes, and apartments. The nearest large shopping mall is the Plymouth Meeting Mall four miles away. About 33% of residents are married with children. Average commutes are 21 minutes.

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