Cambridge’s “Best Place to Live” Title isn’t Black and White


Kate Wheatley

Despite being ranked #1, Cambridge still has room to grow.

Eman Abdurezak and Dania Rustom

On March 20th, data platform Niche distributed its ninth consecutive “Best Places to Live in America” report. The city that is deemed the best place to live in the United States is determined based on a variety of factors, including affordability, walkability, housing, public schools, and neighborhood diversity. Cambridge has long received high rankings in these categories. However, 2023 marks the first year the city has come out on top. Surrounded by a plethora of esteemed public and private educational institutions, which are accessible through all modes of transportation, Cambridge has seemingly earned its number one spot. Residents of Cambridge share an appreciation for the diverse population and enriching career and academic opportunities. Nonetheless, no city is truly perfect, and Cambridge is no exception.

In turn, this creates a middle to upper-class bubble within Cambridge that impacts the priorities of those living within it.

Housing, for one, is the most apparent problem faced by old and aspiring Cantabridgians alike. Residents are often left spending an unreasonable percentage of their income on housing due to shortages caused by sharp population increases. With this population growth, the cost of living has become immensely unaffordable, pushing people out of their homes and into unstable situations. Although the Housing Division boasts affordable housing efforts, the 2023-2024 budget of 881.8 million dollars allocates approximately 2.6% of these funds towards the Affordable Housing Trust. The conditions created by housing insecurity also lead to a spike in crime rates, as demonstrated by the C+ grade given by Niche in its “Crime and Safety” category. Important tragedies are often not publicized by local officials in an attempt to preserve the prestigious image of the City of Cambridge, a frustrating mirage for residents. 

Due in part to this, middle to upper-class residents are often shielded from the various crises that impact locals, causing an overall lack of urgency to implement policy changes. In turn, this creates a middle to upper-class bubble within Cambridge that impacts the priorities of those living within it. Residents are often more focused on seeming socially conscious rather than on issues of safety, homelessness, and affordability–the more immediate concerns. 

More privileged residents who experience a different Cambridge find its better qualities truly outweigh the governmental setbacks. Cambridge is an ever-changing city of new ideas and technology. Home to an indispensable biotech hub and the spirited energy of students, the vibrant and motivating nature of the city propels Cambridge youth into pathways of success. With an abundance of parks, access to nature, and nightlife activities, there is a social scene catered to both families and partygoers. 

As many CRLS students will agree, Cambridge has great qualities and opportunities, yet they can often be overshadowed by the city’s pressing issues, making it a desirable but unattainable city. In reality, there is no scale that can be used to determine the perfect place to live. Every American has their own needs and priorities when it comes to deciding the best place for them, although Cambridge takes great pride in this recent recognition. Whether or not the city is truly deserving of the title, we hope Cambridge will take this opportunity to celebrate their successes and rethink their administrative failures as we move into the next fiscal year.

This article also appears in our May/June 2023 print edition.