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Which capital city is best to call home? Here’s a hint: It’s in Utah

SHARE Which capital city is best to call home? Here’s a hint: It’s in Utah
Clouds hang over the Salt Lake Valley on Tuesday, April 27, 2021.

Clouds hang over the Salt Lake Valley on Tuesday, April 27, 2021.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

There’s a lot to like about Salt Lake City. So much, in fact, that a new report suggests it is the most likable place to live in the nation.

According to the Rent.com blog titled “The Best State Capitals to Call Home,” the Beehive State’s capital ranks tops among all 50 capitals in the United States. The report delves into what might attract people to a prospective home city based on criteria such as economic factors, including the cost of living and median income, as well as professional considerations like the number of overall business opportunities and commuting time, explained Brian Carberry, senior managing editor with Rent.com.

Researchers developed a formula that examined all of the country’s 50 state capitals measuring them in terms of overall livability, then scored every state’s capital city by rank from 1 to 50. While Salt Lake City scored well in some categories, it was rather midland in categories like income, cost of living and commuting. Still, overall Salt Lake City ranked best of the best.

“People are going to want to be in a place that’s desirable in terms of opportunity,” he said. “(For instance), jobs and income and being able to raise a family, as well as just having things to do. There is the feeling of being welcomed by your neighbors, meeting friendly people and living in a city that is growing or an area that’s growing, and Salt Lake City checks off all those boxes.”

He added that much happens in a state’s capital city since it’s where the local government is headquartered, but they are also activity hubs and centers of area culture. Most state capitals are typically more than just seats of government, many are also cities full of economic opportunity along with local history and culture, he said.

In earning the distinction of the state capital with the most to offer, due in part to its reputation of acceptance, the report noted that Salt Lake City was chosen as the capital in 1896 when Utah was granted statehood because its espoused ideals closely aligned with much of the country at the time, which touted expansion, growth and religious freedom.

Today, Salt Lake City offers great potential for professional and business growth, Carberry said. Those are some of the attributes that helped it earn high marks for walkability, bikeability and business opportunity, he said.

“Utah is the fastest-growing state in terms of percentage gain over the past 10 years, so it’s an area that people are interested in,” he said. “A lot of people from California are migrating away from the coast where it’s very expensive to live and settling in places like Nevada, Utah, Idaho — moving a little bit east while still staying on the West Coast. That’s contributing some of that growth as well.”

He noted that the urban center is buoyed by a vibrant tech sector, led by Silicon Slopes. The downtown area offers a variety of entertainment and dining options, including eclectic restaurants, craft beer establishments, and theater and cultural selections as well, he said.

Outdoor recreation is one of the major amenities that draws people to the city, bringing winter and summer sports enthusiasts from all over to enjoy a rich array of activities, including world-class skiing, scores of hiking trails, rock climbing and golf, among others, he said. The report noted the city is also within driving distance of five national parks.

Salt Lake City provides plenty of options for people indoors or outside, blending a combination of natural beauty and urban design, along with generally affordable apartment rates, Carberry said. A one-bedroom unit rents for an average of $1,233 per month, putting Salt Lake City near the middle of pack nationally, he said.

“When you compare it to other cities of comparable size or much larger size, then factor in everything, Salt Lake City is going to be much more favorable,” Carberry said. “It’s a lot cheaper to live in Salt Lake City than it would be in like Austin, Texas, Denver, Boston or Honolulu — some of these other cities that are in the top 10.” 

Following Salt Lake City on top of the rankings were Austin, Texas, at No. 2 with a $1,417 per month average for a one-bedroom rental. That was followed by Cheyenne, Wyoming, as No. 3, where one-bedroom apartments average $930 per month; Madison, Wisconsin, where renters can expect to pay an average of $1,223 per month for single bedroom unit, at No. 4; and nearby Boise at No. 5 with the average rent for a one-bedroom unit at about $1,340 per month.

Correction: A previous version misspelled Brian Carberry’s name as Carbury.