Warwick has been ranked as the 25th most livable small city by financial technology company SmartAsset, according to their findings in “The Most Livable Small Cities in the U.S.” study published in late March.
The study examined 248 small cities with populations between 65,000 and 99,000 and ranked them according to 11 metrics, including the concentration of entertainment establishments, bars and healthcare facilities, the unemployment rate and the median home-value to median income ratio.
Among the key findings was that it appears to be best to live close to a large city, rather than actually in the big city itself. Rhode Island has two representatives in the top 25, with Cranston coming in at an impressive 4th overall rank and Warwick at the tail end, ranked 25th. Flower Mound, Texas was the top overall ranked small city.
Data from the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns Survey revealed that Warwick has a total of 1.5 percent of its properties that qualify as “entertainment establishments,” a concentration on par or higher than many of the small cities on the list, including Cranston (which had a concentration of 1.4 percent).
“Everything is right here,” said Lauren Slocum, executive director of the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce. “If you want art and culture, it's here or it's at a short distance. If you want outdoor activity, it's here. If you want more structured sports, it's here. If we you want animals or pets, or any number of things, it's all here.”
Another key metric, with data gathered from the U.S. Census 2016 survey, showed that housing in Warwick was below-average in affordability, as residents making the median income spend an average of 24.8 percent of their income on housing costs when buying a home at the median price range. This was the highest such percentage of any community in the top 25. A median income earner in Cranston purchasing a median-level home, for example, spent only 20.7 percent of their income on housing ion 2016.
Still, Slocum felt that housing in Warwick at least offered an affordability of options.
“You have multiple levels for housing. You have apartments, single family homes, some multi-family homes, you have every price bracket,” Slocum said. “There's a little bit of something for everyone.”
For both Warwick and Cranston, commute times for residents to make to work were perhaps a little higher than most Rhode Islanders would expect, at 23.2 and 23 minutes respectively. Other small cities had it much better, like Duluth, Minn., which had an average commute of just 15.7 minutes. Regardless, Slocum thinks that the amenities available by living in Warwick makes a brief commute worth it, even in Rhode Island.
“We have people that come to visit questioning whether or not they want to relocate and about how easy it is to get from here to anywhere, whether it’s in state or out of state, and I do think that is an advantage,” Slocum said.
Also reflected on the study was unemployment rate, which from 2016 Census data stood at 3.9 percent in Warwick and 4.9 percent in Cranston. The total cumulative score based on the 11 metrics totaled for Warwick 74.81 and 92.08 in Cranston (out of 100 possible points).
"I am excited to learn that SmartAsset named Warwick as the 25th most livable small city in the country," said Mayor Scott Avedisian. "I think that quality of life, great police and fire protection, open space, schools, parks and recreation all contribute to the livability of the city. It is a great community with 39 miles of coastline and a collection of small villages that people love being in. This is another great distinction for the city."