Investors are always looking for the next great opportunity, but what that means really varies from investor to investor. For some, it’s finding a type of property that’s emerging and will become a big thing not too far into the future; for others, it’s a property class that can be bought and held with almost no input needed to generate a return. Every investor is different, and what each needs is different, so if you’re wondering if socially equitable cities are good places to invest your real estate dollars, the answer is "it depends."
What is a socially equitable city?
The Ascent, a sister publication to Millionacres, recently did a study to determine which cities in the U.S. were the most socially equitable. They looked at six metrics, several that contained multiple categories, to figure out what cities are doing the best jobs at making life more fair for everyone, considering aspects like justice, equity, diversity, inclusion, and even climate justice.
Rather than taking one problem at a time, which is kind of the old school way of thinking about community planning, socially equitable cities look at the organic whole and try to ensure that more people are getting their needs met, no matter what those happen to be. So that might mean finding ways to encourage more racial diversity in neighborhoods but also ensuring that those neighborhoods are friendly to immigrants, women, and members of the LGBT+ community.
Labor and pay is another heavy metric that might be addressed by a socially equitable city. In these cities, there are more worker protections in place to ensure everyone understands and receives their proper rights under the law.
Wage equity is vital to success in these areas, but so is access to transportation. In many cities, workers don’t always drive or even own a car, so being able to access public transportation is vital to their being able to go to a job of their choosing, not just one that they can reasonably reach on foot.
How sustainable a community is also figured into the Ascent rankings, since clean air and water, as well as affordable energy and lack of hunger, absolutely make a city more equitable. And, of course, they examined the cost of living in each city (as well as healthcare), including housing, because a city with a high cost of living is one that forces lower-income families apart, as members work long hours at second or even third jobs. That’s not very equitable at all.
Some of the most socially equitable cities in the U.S.
Many of the top socially equitable cities are almost certainly the same ones you’d expect to see on a list like this. The top 10 are:
- San Francisco
- Chula Vista, California
- Portland, Oregon
- Washington, D.C.
- New York City
- Jersey City, New Jersey
- San Jose, California
- Madison, Wisconsin
Honorable Mentions were granted to:
Although Texas has been a popular place for investment lately, Austin came in at No. 28, El Paso at No. 41, Dallas at No. 45, San Antonio at No. 46, Houston at No. 65, Fort Worth at No. 69, Corpus Christi at No. 76, and Arlington at No. 81. Baton Rouge, Louisiana was dead last, at No. 85.
The Millionacres bottom line
Socially equitable cities are those that continue to find ways to invest in everything for their citizens, from infrastructure to personal growth opportunities, in order to give them an easier path to success. Inclusive development is a key that can unlock urban growth and economic potential. The truth is that the value of any city lies in its people and their prosperity.
If you think of any random city as one you might want to invest in, you’re going to be thinking of cities that are thriving, where people want to live, where jobs are plentiful, and education is abundant. This is a mixed bag, of course, because that sometimes means that areas that desperately need cash injections (like the rural Midwest, for example) aren’t able to attract the investors they need to help their cities be better because they don’t have the initial cash to turn things around enough to make people want to stay.
Both can be good investments, however, depending on what you’re looking to accomplish with your money and the sort of real estate you’d like to invest in. Residential and commercial real estate are both always in high demand in large, equitable cities, as is affordable housing, since competition for rental units can be fierce, pushing prices high.
In less socially equitable areas, residential and retail rental units can be harder to fill, but industrial can still be a good buy, since this is generally where these less attractive neighbors can build enormous complexes without bothering anyone with the noise and odors that sometimes come along for the ride in manufacturing, logistics, and so on.
Before you decide if a socially equitable city will be a good investment, ask yourself why you’re investing. If your goal is to help make a better future while still making a living or creating a retirement nest egg, socially equitable cities may be for you.