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Sammamish ranks among nation’s ‘best’ places to live

When it comes to quality of life and affordability around Seattle, don’t look in Seattle. Try looking at Sammamish instead, which was recently ranked in the top 10 best places to live.

“…Sammamish residents get a wealth of outdoor activities on their doorstep,” reports MONEY magazine. “The town’s 14 parks and preserves, some of which are home to bears and other wildlife, offer a range of activities — from hiking to cricket to ziplining to skateboarding.”

“Sammamish also claims a lively cultural community. Its arts commission maintains a busy schedule of exhibitions and oversees a popular fair that showcases the work of local artists. And a weekly summer concert series features an array of performers, from a Linda Ronstadt tribute band to the Sammamish Symphony.”

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MONEY is a TIME publication. The magazine considered 583 communities in America based on nine categories: economic health, cost of living, diversity, public education, income, housing, crime, ease of living, and amenities. Using realtor.com, it found the “best places to live,” or “places that combine economic growth, affordability, and quality of life.”

Sammamish, Wash. ranks at no. 9 on the list. Frisco, Texas leads the pack, in case you’re wondering. The list stretches out to 50, but the Seattle suburb was the only Washington community to make the cut, and it’s only one of three out of the Northwest. Hillsboro, Ore, just outside of Portland, comes in at 39. Boise ranks at no. 46.

Sammamish has experienced ripples from Seattle’s population boom. Traffic has gotten so bad in the area, leaders have even talked about building a bridge across Lake Sammamish into Bellevue.

Sammamish pricing

MONEY states that it didn’t entirely rely on the 135,000 data points used in the top 50 list. It also had reporters research “each spot, interviewing residents, checking out neighborhoods, and searching for the kinds of intangible factors that aren’t revealed by statistics. To ensure a geographically diverse set, we limited the list to no more than two places per state and one per county. In the top 15, we allowed only one place per state.”

Which means that out of all the places surrounding Seattle, Sammamish fit the affordability bill the most. At least when it comes to quality of life. That might be the factor skewing the results a little bit. The suburb isn’t exactly known for its reasonably-priced housing. A quick Craigslist search will lead renters to studios like this one — 590 square feet going for nearly $1,400. For nearly $1,500, you can get 50 more square feet for this one bedroom apartment. According to apartments.com, rent in Sammamish starts at about $1,348.

Real estate website Zillow reports that the median rent price in the suburb is $2,895; higher than the region’s average of $2,395.

Zillow also reports that the median home value in Sammamish is $933,400 — the market there is considered “hot.” Home values in the area rose by 7.2 percent over the past year. Zillow expects prices to rise another 3.6 percent over the coming year. The real estate website further reports that the median price per square foot in the suburb ($376) is higher than the average for Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue-Metro area ($282).

MONEY accounts for this by noting that the average pay in the area is generally higher than neighboring communities.

Roughly half an hour from Seattle, and closer still to corporate campuses in Redmond and Bellevue, Sammamish attracts many of the people who work for Microsoft, Amazon, Expedia and other tech giants. Homes are pricey here, but salaries are high too: Median family income is roughly $165,000, more than twice the median for the other spots MONEY analyzed.

According to The Seattle Times, more than a quarter of Seattle families earn more than $200,000. At the same time, half of IRS filers in Seattle earn $50,000 or less.

At the same time MONEY has come out with its rankings of best places to live, complimenting Sammamish on its affordability and quality of life, there is a sharp contrast in the area. KUOW reports that while national poverty rates have declined, the poverty that people are experiencing is far more severe than ever. About 440,000 people in Washington state report making less than $10,000 a year — qualifying as “extreme poverty.”

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