What makes a community “livable?” While that question can generate a million different responses, there are certain elements without which many humans could not live and prosper in any community. These are things such as a feeling of personal safety, opportunities to work and opportunities to socialize and be happy outside of working.
However, there is an element to so-called “livability” that hinges on entirely subjective factors, unique to each individual. Depending on your temperament, you may be able to happily live in a 10x10 shack without modern amenities in the middle of the woods, or perhaps you require the kind of nonstop stimulation that only a large city can provide.
From a quick glance at our Facebook page, it might seem as though Warwick is a terrible, pothole-filled slum city and that Rhode Island is a pitiful collection of shantytowns rife with problems. This bleak outlook, thankfully, has more to do with our tendency to verbalize negative opinions rather than positive ones (look up negativity bias for a good explanation of this phenomenon).
From a more grounded analysis, people in Warwick and Rhode Island enjoy a high degree of livability, and that opinion was backed up by a recent study from SmartAsset, which ranked 268 small cities between 68,000 and 99,000 and found Warwick to be the 25th most livable one.
They based this off of things like affordability of housing, the city’s unemployment rate and the percentage of properties around town that could be identified as places where you can have fun or unwind from the stressors of daily life.
While Warwick was by no means the most affordable community to find a place to live in the study – paying, on average, a full quarter of your income on housing costs is not insignificant – we also enjoy a lower-than-average unemployment rate (3.8 in Warwick compared to 4.1 percent national) and have a respectable percentage of recreational opportunities. The city is also home to plenty of places to shop and spend that other 75 percent of your income.
Property tax rates in Rhode Island are, on average across all communities, the 10th highest in the country, however Warwick is in the middle of that scale in the state at $20.24 per $1,000 of assessed value for residential properties, compared to $22.94 in Cranston and a whopping $27.49 in Johnston. Warwick residents were also fortunate to enjoy no tax increases this past budget season.
Another element of livability is mobility, both in the ability to secure a job and in the physical mobility of getting from place to place. Located right along one of the busiest north/south corridors of Interstate 95, nobody can argue that it’s difficult to take a trip. There’s even an airport in the city to help with that. As the city has been willing to expand economic opportunities through Warwick City Centre and by bringing more business in (some of it from different countries, such as Ireland), more jobs and career opportunities should, in theory, follow.
This leads to another point about livability, which is a bit subtler. Nobody wants to live in a place where they feel those in charge are coasting along and not trying to improve things. From its recent developmental efforts and from conversations with the people in charge of departments overseeing the city’s health moving forward, there is a feeling the people making the decisions actually care and are putting in effort to see Warwick grow in a positive way.
As for the potholes, public works can only do so much with the budget, staff and equipment they have. We’re sure if all those waging complaints on Facebook wanted to pony up some additional tax money, they could certainly get to a few more.
All things else aside, what truly makes a community livable or not livable are the people you call your neighbors, the businesses that operate in your neighborhood and the places accessible to you that can become the basis for memories with your loved ones.
Warwick enjoys one of the lowest crime rates in the country and isn’t subject to hateful behavior between different types of people like we see too often in other communities around the country. If something tragic were to happen in Warwick, the citizens would band together and have one another’s back – regardless of which sports team they rooted for or who they voted for in the previous election.
This communal feeling of being from Rhode Island, and being from Warwick, is what truly makes the city among the most desirable places to live.