Calculating where you should live

Choosing a place to live is always full of trade-offs, but it’d be nice if there was a way to minimize those trade-offs. For NYT Opinion, Gus Wezerek and Yaryna Serkez, made a calculator that lets you weight your priorities to find the city that fits best with how you want to live:

Places can score zero to 10 points for each metric. To calculate each place’s match percentage, we add up its scores across metrics that a reader has selected and divide by the total number of possible points. If a reader selects the checkboxes for trees and mountains, a place with a score of 6 for trees and 8 for mountains will be a 70 percent match.

Places with no data for a metric receive zero points. For starred metrics, we double the number of points scored and available to make them count twice as much toward the match percentage.

Read more on their methodology here. The interactive is based on data from the Census Bureau,, AccuWeather, and Yelp.

After checking the boxes that are important to you, you get a list of cities that best fit the criteria, based on an aggregated match percentage.

I found this is also an excellent way to feel less sure about your current residence and to wonder why areas that you thought would strongly dislike appear at the top of the list.

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Where America is expanding in developed areas

Zach Levitt and Jess Eng for The Washington Post mapped newly developed areas in the contiguous United States, between 2001 and 2019:

Between 2001 and 2019, the built-up landscape of America — buildings, roads and other structures — has expanded into previously undeveloped areas, adding more than 14,000 square miles of new development across the contiguous United States — an area over five times the size of Delaware.

My favorite part is the interactive map, which lets you see development in your area. The purple indicating newly developed areas against the grayscale provides a quick reference.

The maps are based on data from the United States Geological Survey, which you can grab here.

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Maps of migration to smaller cities

Steven Bernard for Financial Times, in a report by Claire Bushey and Steff Chavez, mapped net inflows (paywalled), based on property searches on home listing site Redfin. This shows a slightly different angle from NYT’s analysis, which showed less change year-over-year.

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Maps of migration to smaller cities

Steven Bernard for Financial Times, in a report by Claire Bushey and Steff Chavez, mapped net inflows (paywalled), based on property searches on home listing site Redfin. This shows a slightly different angle from NYT’s analysis, which showed less change year-over-year.

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Racist housing policy from 1930s and present-day temperature highs

Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich for The New York Times show how policies that marked black neighborhoods as “hazardous” for real estate investment led to a present-day with fewer trees and higher temperatures. The maps that shift back and forth between past districting and how things are now show the picture clearly.

This goes hand-in-hand with how tree-cover and neighborhood incomes are also tightly coupled.

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Millions of dollars in tax breaks — because of a mapping error

A small discrepancy in a couple of shapefiles led to a misclassification of land. Wealthy investors are taking advantage. For ProPublica, Jeff Ernsthausen and Justin Elliott:

They have President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul law to thank. The new law has a provision meant to spur investment into underdeveloped areas, called “opportunity zones.” The idea is to grant lucrative tax breaks to encourage new investment in poor areas around the country, carefully selected by each state’s governor.

But Port Covington, an ambitious development geared to millennials to feature offices, a hotel, apartments, and shopping, is not in a census tract that is poor. It’s not a new investment. And the census tract only became eligible to be an opportunity zone thanks to a mapping error.

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Home zoning in major cities

The single-family home. It’s part of the American dream, but it can be awfully expensive when land grows scarce. Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui for The Upshot map and discuss the current approaches of major cities:

A reckoning with single-family zoning is necessary, they say, amid mounting crises over housing affordability, racial inequality and climate change. But take these laws away, many homeowners fear, and their property values and quality of life will suffer. The changes, opponents in Minneapolis have warned, amount to nothing less than an effort to “bulldoze” their neighborhoods.

Using building footprints instead of just colored polygons provide nice depth and detail.

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Looking for more affordable homes and better schools in the suburbs

Families often move out of the city to the suburbs for more affordable housing (or more space) and better schools for the kids. Quoctrung Bui and Conor Dougherty for The Upshot plot these two things, average price per square foot and school district performance, to compare against the respective city.

In addition, there are two more encoded variables in each bubble. Size represents population, and color represents an average commute time of less than (green) or greater than 30 minutes (pink). On top of that, connecting lines focus comparison for suburbs against the main city school district.

So there’s a lot going on. My initial thought was that the charts showed one variable too much, but the more I stared, the more I liked what I saw.

You expect pink dots to venture bottom right, with average commute time as sort of a proxy for distance from the city. As the charts show it’s more complicated than that (as usual).

But the most surprising thing for me when I scrolled down, as someone living in a suburb of the Bay Area, was the big jump down from much lower housing prices in Chicago and Minneapolis. You’re looking kind of good Wayzata, Minnesota.

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London Underground rent map

London Underground Rent Map

In a straightforward map, Jason Allen for Thrillist replaced station names on the London Tube map with median rent prices for a one-bedroom apartment in the area. I'm sure someone is working on U.S. subway maps at this very moment.

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Median home in America, over 40 years

Median home

The median home in America has changed in a variety of ways. Square footage increased, number of bedrooms and bathrooms shifted, heating changed from electrical to gas, and cost went up. CNNMoney provides an animated graphic that shows these changes over the past four decades.

All the while, the average number of people in a household started to decrease in the 1960s and leveled off in the 1980s. When does the tiny house revolution hit mainstream?

If you want to look at the data for housing characteristics in more detail, grab it here.

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