A house in San Jose with a for sale sign on the lawn.
A pending settlement with the National Association of Realtors could change the way real estate agents get commissions. File photo.

San Jose has been named one of the best places to live for quality of life, and some are asking how that happened.

The U.S. News and World Report ranking for the 25 best places to live puts San Jose in the No. 4 spot. The ranking, published last week, is based on a wide range of factors according to the report’s methodology, including housing affordability, resident well-being and the job market. In the No. 1 spot is Ann Arbor, Michigan, followed by Boulder, Colorado and Madison, Wisconsin. Portland, Maine is fifth. No other California city made the list.

“While it’s nice to have validation of the progress we’ve made in the past year, I’m more focused on driving forward the pragmatic solutions that will get people off our streets, reduce crime and tackle the high cost of living pushing so many of our residents to the brink,” Mayor Matt Mahan told San José Spotlight.

Mahan tweeted about the ranking on Wednesday, encouraging people to move to the city.

Tweet from Mayor Matt Mahan @MattMahanSJ reading "The World Report has found what most uf know already — San Jose is the place to be and we're working each and every day to make it better! If you're looking for a new city to call home, why not start with the 4th best in the nation?". The tweet includes a graphic listing the top five cities to live in from the US News and World Report ranking Best Places to Live based on Quality of Life.
Mayor Matt Mahan tweeted a U.S. News and World report on ‘Best Places to Live’ touting San Jose as No. 4 in the nation. Screenshot from X, formerly known as Twitter.

Scott Myers-Lipton, professor emeritus of sociology at San Jose State University, said the ranking doesn’t reflect the reality for most residents. He pointed out how San Jose has also previously been ranked No. 1 in youth homelessness and racial inequities that make it hard for African American and Latino residents to build wealth.

“Even for some of the folks who are middle class, they’re struggling to make ends meet in Silicon Valley,” Myers-Lipton told San José Spotlight. “Who did (U.S. News and World Report) interview? Did they go just to certain sectors of San Jose and not others?”

For the past four years, Myers-Lipton has spearheaded the Silicon Valley Pain Index, an annual project that highlights the effects of racism and wealth inequality for local people of color. Last year, the pain index showed that .01% of households in the region own $323 billion of total wealth and that about 26% of Black residents own a home compared to 63% of white residents.

He said San Jose has incredible diversity among its population, with a large first generation immigrant population, but there are monetary factors that make it difficult to live in the city.

“We have some real challenges here, and there’s no doubt that we’re one of the great economies of the world (here) in Silicon Valley, but the wealth that gets created does not get to the bottom 50%,” he said.

The U.S. News and World Report rankings weigh a city’s “value” as the second most important feature, which pertains to cost of living and housing affordability. San Jose’s median home price of $1,524,907 is almost double that of first place city Boulder at $881,147. It costs about $1,000 more to rent in San Jose than the other top five cities.

Brett Caviness, local realtor and former president of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors, said costs are often a deciding factor for his clients when buying homes.

“You can tell me all the things you would love to have in your house, but when you tell me your budget, I usually have to tell you you don’t get those,” Caviness told San José Spotlight. “People are usually really limited by their price point and that’s at every price point.”

Caviness added that there are many reasons why people want to move to Silicon Valley, including proximity to attractions such as beaches, Napa Valley and Lake Tahoe. He also said people tell him they enjoy being close to three major airports — San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose — because it gives them more opportunities to travel.

While he said the ranking may be surprising because the city’s cost of housing is so high, Caviness said housing costs have risen across the country, and that the area’s amenities coupled with diversity in housing options continue to make it a desirable place to live.

Sandy Perry, vice president of the board of the South Bay Community Land Trust, said rankings like this call into question which demographic actually finds San Jose livable.

San Jose was previously ranked No. 5 in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Places to Live list. Then and now, Perry said low-income residents are forced out by soaring costs of housing.

“It is very liveable and desirable for people that have plenty of income,” he told San José Spotlight. “ San Jose has a big displacement problem. Whole communities are being destroyed by displacement.”

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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