The Best Places to Live for Young Families in Texas
It’s no secret having kids is expensive, as is buying an affordable home you can finally call your own. But for young families, homebuying is about more than just finding a reasonable price and a relatively low cost of living. It’s about finding a spot with good job opportunities, strong schools, decent commutes and children-friendly communities that offer both recreational and cultural possibilities.
By national standards, Texas has a lower cost of living in most categories. Still, finding an affordable home is becoming more difficult throughout the state, especially in large cities, such as Dallas and Houston, where real estate prices have exploded over the last five years (Dallas in particular).
Despite the challenges, Texas offers plenty of opportunities for young families that may be willing to live in smaller cities or suburbs, where there are encouraging job opportunities, good schools and a lower cost of living. If you are looking for a place for your family, you may not find a community that is perfect in all these categories, but many score well for the qualities that young families often prize the most. Researchers at LendingTree compiled a list to help you find the best place for you within the vast expanse of the Lone Star State.
- University Park, a Dallas suburb, is the best place to raise a family in Texas, with a final score of 73.6.
- West University Place and Bellaire, both in the Houston area, take the second and third spots with final scores of 73.2 and 70.5, respectively.
- On the other end of the list, we found Webster to be the most challenging place for young families in Texas, with a final score of 44.2.
- Jacinto City and Bacliff finished out the bottom three towns on our list, with final scores of 44.9 and 45, respectively.
The top 10 cities to live in Texas
#1 University Park
Located about five miles north of downtown Dallas, University Park is a small city with some 23,000 residents. Median housing costs here are high, at $3,158 per month. Still, almost 84% of families with children are homeowners with a median household income of $250,001. The area is home to parks, Southern Methodist University and the George W. Bush Presidential Center, but it’s also close enough to Dallas that the average travel time to work is just 18.7 minutes.
#2 West University Place
In West University Place, a small city within the Houston metro area, the median household income is the same as for University Park ($250,001), but the monthly housing cost is lower ($2,871). Homeownership here is high, and 44% of households have children. West University Place is also near the Texas Medical Center, Rice University, Houston’s Museum District, Houston Zoo and Hermann Park.
Bellaire is also part of the Houston area, and it’s next to West University Place. Housing costs here are not cheap; but at $2,531 a month, the median housing cost is lower than for both University Park and West University Place. Meanwhile, Bellaire has the same median household income as those two cities ($250,001). It’s located fewer than 10 miles from downtown Houston and about four miles from the Texas Medical Center.
#4 Trophy Club
Trophy Club claims to be the first master-planned community in Texas, and its legacy now includes a wide range of home choices, two 18-hole golf courses, 1,000 acres of parks and easy access to water sports at Lake Grapevine. The town numbers about 12,000 residents and is located some 30 miles from central Dallas and 23 miles from Fort Worth. The median household income here ($155,806) is significantly less than what you’ll find in the first three cities on this list, but housing costs are lower, too, at $2,190 per month. Of all the cities on our top 10 list, Trophy Club has the lowest unemployment rate — just 0.2% — for residents between 25 and 44 years old.
Like its neighbor, Trophy Club,Southlake sits about 30 miles north of both Dallas and Fort Worth and is home to some 27,000 residents. The average monthly household income here is high, $250,001 per year, but the median housing cost of $3,184 is the highest for any top 10 city on our list. Still, Southlake is close to Lake Grapevine, DFW International Airport and the Bob Jones Nature Center and Preserve, which includes an educational center and 20 miles of hiking trails.
If you don’t care about being near a big city, consider Hereford, a small town about 50 miles from both Amarillo and the New Mexico border. While the median household income in Hereford is the lowest for the top 10 cities on this list ($51,569 a year), the median housing price is the lowest, too, costing residents just $684 per month. Another measure of local housing affordability: Almost 58% of households with children own a home. Compared to the other cities on this list, Hereford residents have the shortest commute time; it takes them an average of 12.4 minutes to get to work.
Located near both the Texas coast and the Louisiana border, Nederland is about 10 miles south of Beaumont and 90 miles east of Houston. A key attraction here is nearby Sabine Lake, a local draw for saltwater fishing and other recreational activities. Dutch immigrants came here in 1898, and the 17,000-resident town now features a replica of a Dutch windmill with a museum inside. Housing is very affordable in Nederland, with a median housing cost of just $890 per month. About one-third of Nederland households have children.
#8 Sienna Plantation
Sienna Plantation is a master-planned community located outside Houston in the suburb of Missouri City. Of the top 10 cities on this list, it has the highest percentage of households with children (60.1%), and more than 95% of families with children own their homes. Family amenities abound and include walking trails, more than 100 acres of parks, a golf club, waterparks, stables and a new lakeside club. One potential drawback for newcomers: The average commute time is almost 41 minutes.
Snyder is a small, central West Texas community in between Lubbock and Abilene. Housing here is the second most affordable among the top 10 cities, with the average monthly housing cost coming in at only $720. Another measure of affordability: Three-quarters of families with children own their homes. Snyder is home to a county park, community pool and splash pad, as well as a local historical museum. One thing for families to consider: Snyder has the highest unemployment rate, at 4.5%, for any top 10 city on our list.
Fate is located about 30 miles from downtown Dallas and claims to be one of the fastest-growing cities within the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. According to the city’s website, the growth in single-family housing is due to three planned communities that will give the city a population of 50,000 once they’re fully built out. Among the top 10 cities on this list, Fate has the second highest percentage of households with children (59.9%) and the highest homeownership rate (97.2%). Meanwhile, monthly housing costs are about half what they are in our top-ranked city, University Park.
Understanding the rankings
We chose seven indicators to rank cities and towns with above 10,188 people in the state for how good they are for young families, which were then scored to create an overall ranking of the best places for young families. The seven indicators we used are:
Median family income: Money isn’t everything, but a place with high family incomes suggests good job opportunities and a community with more resources.
Median monthly housing costs for all households: For families already dealing with new childcare expenses, reasonably affordable housing is important.
Homeownership rate of families with children: A high rate indicates homeownership is more common and, perhaps more importantly for a family looking to buy, more practical.
Unemployment rate of 25-44 year olds: A low rate indicates the job market is healthy and suggests a higher quality of life, locally. We focused on 25-44 year olds in particular to capture the most common ages for parents of young families.
Percentage of 16-19 year olds not enrolled or graduated from high school: To estimate high school graduation rates and therefore school quality, we calculated the percentage of older teenagers who were not in high school yet had no high school degree. This number is not the actual high school dropout rate, but it is well-correlated.
Average commute time: Shorter commutes mean less-stressed workers who have more time to spend with their families.
Percentage of households that have children: A community with more children means other families have already decided it’s attractive. It also usually means more educational and recreational activities suitable for children and their parents and residents who are concerned about policies that benefit families with kids.
Analysts used data from the 2017 5-Year American Community Survey by the U.S. Census. Each of the seven metrics was given a value according to its relative location between the highest and lowest values. The values were then summed and divided by seven for an equal weighting. The analysis was limited to Census-designated places with populations of at least 10,188.