Editor’s Desk: October 2018

Pittsburgh Magazine Editor Brian Hyslop explains the rationale and process for ranking the city's suburbs.

Many of us who live in western Pennsylvania identify ourselves as Pittsburghers, but estimates from the U.S. Census for 2017 report that the city’s population was 302,407 while Allegheny County had 1,233,048 residents. Clearly the suburbs have a vast appeal.

Anecdotally, residents can give you the scoop on our suburban municipalities. But with 127 suburbs in Allegheny County as well as the popular bedroom communities of Cranberry, Murrysville and Peters Township, perception doesn’t always match reality.

So, with the help of contributing writer Mark Houser, we set out to rank the suburbs as dispassionately as we could. After many hours in many meetings, we reached a consensus on the factors we would use to measure the suburbs. (For a full explanation, see Ranking Suburbia.)

The result is a valuable resource that is fair and intriguing with more than a few surprises to guide you in deciding which community is right for you.

No matter where we choose though, we remain fortunate to be living in the greater Pittsburgh area. According to the annual “State Of The Nation’s Housing” report from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies released in June (available at jchs.harvard.edu/research), of the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, Pittsburgh has the highest homeownership rate at 70 percent, while Los Angeles has the lowest rate at 48 percent. The report notes that in L.A. a household with the area’s median income would be able to afford the monthly mortgage payments on only 11 percent of recently sold homes. “By contrast, even a low-income (bottom-quartile) household in Pittsburgh would be able to afford 26 percent of recently sold homes.”

Also notable in the report is that while in San Jose the median sales price was 10 times the median household income, followed closely by Los Angeles (9.5 times), the price-to-income ratio was below 3 in Pittsburgh and 25 other metro areas last year.

I lived in the North Hills for decades before relocating to the city, and I love both places. Where we choose to live is not always quantifiable, and intangible factors, such as family connections, can weigh heavily on a decision. That is why even the communities at the bottom of our list can be wonderful places to call home.

Brian Hyslop can be reached at ​bhyslop@pittsburghmagazine.com or 412/304-0921

Categories: Editor