Minneapolis, Chicago and Philadelphia Are the Most Affordable Sustainable Cities

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Just Three of the Cities that Top the Ranks for Walkability, Bikeability, and Transit and Park Access Also Have Home Prices Below the National Median

There are many ways that all of us as individuals can do our part for the environment. Limiting use of single-use plastics, recycling, and being mindful of things like energy efficiency. But one of the biggest environmental choices we make is where we live. The closer you are to your daily activities like work, restaurants, shopping, and recreation, the less of an impact you have on the environment getting to those things, and the less of your own time and energy you lose to moving from point A to point B.

To help quantify some of the benefits of being close to amenities, we combined four measures of sustainability for residents of a city—walkability, bikeability, and access to public transit and parks—for the 50 most populous U.S. cities, which we ranked according to a metric we’re calling the “Sustainability Score.”

For these measures we used data from our own Walk Score® (Walk Score, Transit Score® and Bike Score®) and ParkScore® rankings from The Trust for Public Land. Each of the four components is measured on a scale of one to 100, where 100 best rating and one is the worst. The overall Sustainability Score is an average of the four components.

San Francisco, with a Sustainability Score of 79.2 out of 100, ranked highest among the biggest cities in the nation. New York was a close second with a score of 79.0.

Arlington, Texas (29.3), Charlotte (27.5) and Fort Worth (25.3) had the lowest Sustainability Scores, and were the only cities with scores below 30.

Below we rank the 50 largest cities for which we have park data, according to their Sustainability Score:

Rank City Sustainability Score Median Home Price (March 2019) ParkScore® Walk Score Transit Score Bike Score
1 San Francisco, CA 79.2 $1,407,500 80 86 80 71
2 New York, NY 79.0 $605,000 75 89 84 68
3 Washington, D.C. 74.2 $568,000 82 77 71 67
4 Boston, MA 73.4 $645,000 71* 81 72 69
5 Minneapolis, MN 73.1 $275,000 84 69 57 82
6 Chicago, IL 72.7 $286,500 76 78 65 72
7 Seattle, WA 69.1 $681,000 73 73 60 70
8 Portland, OR 68.9 $435,000 78 65 52 81
9 Philadelphia, PA 67.9 $200,000 60 79 67 66
10 Oakland, CA 62.5 $757,500 57 72 56 65
11 Miami, FL 61.8 $310,000 48 79 57 63
12 Long Beach, CA 61.8 $571,000 64 70 52 61
13 Denver, CO 60.3 $415,000 62 61 47 71
14 Milwaukee, WI 57.9 $136,750 67 62 48 54
15 New Orleans, LA 57.1 $265,000 63 58 44 64
16 Baltimore, MD 55.8 $157,500 45 69 57 52
17 Los Angeles, CA 54.5 $720,000 43 67 53 55
18 San Jose, CA 53.1 $1,020,000 62 51 41 59
19 Cleveland, OH 53.0 $80,100 58 60 45 50
20 Sacramento, CA 52.7 $332,500 64 47 34 66
21 San Diego, CA 48.5 $612,000 67 51 37 39
22 Atlanta, GA 47.7 $299,900 53 49 47 41
23 Albuquerque, NM 47.1 $180,040 55 43 30 60
24 Dallas, TX 45.3 $315,000 49 46 40 46
25 Detroit, MI 44.8 $40,000 34 55 39 52
26 Austin, TX 44.6 $375,000 53 40 34 51
27 Las Vegas, NV 44.4 $275,000 59 41 34 44
28 Tucson, AZ 43.9 $210,500 34 42 35 64
29 Phoenix, AZ 43.6 $255,000 45 41 36 52
30 Houston, TX 42.8 $226,320 38 49 37 48
31 Omaha, NE 42.6 $192,000 59 45 27 40
32 Fresno, CA 41.3 $255,000 31 46 32 57
33 Columbus, OH 41.0 $174,950 44 41 33 47
34 San Antonio, TX 39.3 $210,000 42 38 36 42
35 Virginia Beach, VA 39.1 $252,750 62 33 21 41
36 Raleigh, NC 39.0 $275,000 59 30 30 37
37 Kansas City, MO 38.6 $185,000 59 34 29 32
38 Tulsa, OK 37.7 $160,000 44 40 23 44
39 Mesa, AZ 37.5 $256,000 28 37 27 57
40 El Paso, TX 37.1 $158,225 37 41 31 39
41 Colorado Springs, CO 36.5 $295,000 50 36 19 42
42 Memphis, TN 35.8 $130,000 33 37   38
43 Wichita, KS 34.2 [no data] 39 35 20 43
44 Louisville, KY 34.0 $172,500 35 33 28 40
45 Nashville, TN 32.5 $295,000 46 28 23 33
46 Oklahoma City, OK 31.3 $183,000 36 33 16 40
47 Jacksonville, FL 31.2 $200,000 35 27 23 40
48 Arlington, TX 29.3 $235,000 43 37 0 37
49 Charlotte, NC 27.5 $250,000 25 26 29 30
50 Fort Worth, TX 25.3 $230,000 9* 34 21 36

*Boston and Fort Worth do not have ParkScore® data, so for these cities we scored them based on the number of parks per square mile relative to the 100 most populous cities in the nation.

For the most part, the more sustainable a city is, the more expensive it is to live there, as six out of the top 10 most sustainable cities have median home prices above $500,000. There are a few notable exceptions, though. Minneapolis (73.1), Chicago (72.7) and Philadelphia (67.9) all ranked in the top 10 cities for sustainability, but have median home prices lower than the national median price of $295,100.

“I often meet transplants from more expensive coastal cities like New York and D.C.,” said Redfin Chicago transaction coordinator Jon Fox. “They want to live somewhere where homeownership is attainable without sacrificing the amenity-rich lifestyles they’ve grown accustomed to. A lot of people may not think of Chicago when it comes to environmental sustainability, but they should! Between public transit, ridesharing, and bike sharing, having a car in Chicago is unnecessary, and in 2018, Chicago became one of only seven cities in the world to receive the highest level of LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.”

Paying more won’t always get you access to high sustainability, though. Home prices in San Diego are nearly double the national median at $612,000, but the city’s Sustainability Score is only 48.5, placing it 21st among the 50 largest cities.


“It’s not a coincidence that the most sustainable cities are also the ones with the most expensive homes,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. “Many people are willing to pay a premium for the ability to live a green lifestyle that involves walking and biking and avoids driving. But there are a few places where it’s still affordable to live a sustainable lifestyle. Philadelphia for example, has plenty of affordable housing near its city center with walkable access to shops, parks and jobs.”

Interactive Map

As you can see in the map below, nearly every part of the country has at least one city with a high Sustainability Score.


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tim-ellisredfin-com

Senior Data Journalist / Real Estate Analyst

Tim Ellis has been analyzing the real estate market since 2005, and worked at Redfin as a housing market analyst from 2010 through 2013 and again starting in 2018. In his free time, he runs the independently-operated Seattle-area real estate website Seattle Bubble, and produces the "Dispatches from the Multiverse" improvised comedy sci-fi podcast.

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