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Is Bellingham among the worst cities in America?

The original Whatcom County Courthouse, in Bellingham, Wednesday, March 30, 2016.
The original Whatcom County Courthouse, in Bellingham, Wednesday, March 30, 2016. pdwyer@bellinghamherald.com

Maybe it’s the whole “subdued excitement” thing. Maybe it’s the rain. Or the high cost of housing.

Check that – it’s definitely the high cost of housing. Bellingham’s rising home values were the main reason the city was named one of the 50 worst in America to live in, according to financial news and opinion website 24/7 Wall St.

To determine America’s 50 worst cities, the website reviewed data on the 550 U.S. cities with populations of 65,000 or more as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau. Variables included crime rates, employment growth, access to restaurants and attractions, educational attainment, and housing affordability.

Bellingham came in at No. 50.

The study found that “a typical home in (Bellingham) is valued at more than $300,000, considerably higher than the national median home value of $181,200. While this suggests some level of prosperity among residents, compared to area income levels, area housing is not particularly affordable. The median home value is 7.3 times greater than the median income, making Bellingham one of the least affordable cities in the country.”

[ Can you buy a house for under $300,000 in Bellingham anymore? ]

While the city scored well for educational attainment – 43.7 percent of residents have at least a bachelor’s degree – Bellingham’s higher-than-average poverty rate also was a negative. In Bellingham, 21.4 percent of residents live in poverty, far more than the national rate of 15.5 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Bellingham typically ranks high on livability indexes. For example, in May the same website said people in Bellingham have the longest life expectancy in Washington state. The site says the average Washington resident can expect to live 79.6 years, a shade longer than the national average of 78.5 years. Bellingham residents can expect to live 80.9 years on average, one of the longest marks in the country.

Here’s another head-scratcher – Miami, with its world-famous beaches, cruise ships and nightlife, ranked as the worst city to live in, followed by Detroit and third-place Paterson, N.J. Among the other cities that made the list: St. Louis (No. 15), Kansas City, Mo. (No. 31), and Washington, D.C. (No. 46).

Other rankings

Here’s a look at other websites – some legitimate, some that apparently exist solely to create lists of things – that have ranked Bellingham and other Whatcom cities recently.

▪ Whatcom County is the fifth healthiest county in Washington state, according to the 2016 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. The annual report assesses how healthy residents are and looks at data across more than 30 categories that influence health, including education, housing, jobs, smoking and access to healthy food.

▪ Lynden ranked eighth among the 10 “most boring places,” according to roadsnacks.net. Ratings were based on average age, population density, the percentage of people over 35 and the percentage of households that are married, have children or have people over 65.

▪ Ferndale insole manufacturer Superfeet was on Outside Magazine’s Best Places to Work list in 2015. Superfeet was ranked sixth in the Best Gear Jobs category and 78th overall. The company also made the list in 2008 and 2011.

▪ Bellingham is one of 20 great American cities for writers that aren’t New York City, according to flavorwire.com. Reasons? Bellingham is close to Seattle and its coffee shops (no mention of local coffee dens), plenty of rain to keep writers at work inside, and the presence of Village Books.

▪ Bellingham rated 15th among the 25 most hungover cities in America, according to businessinsider.com. Using business and research data, the site says 7.9 percent of people in Bellingham admitted to heavy drinking and 19.6 percent admitted to binge drinking. The city also rated high in the number of bars, alcohol stores and alcoholic-beverage-producing establishments per capita.

▪ Bellingham is tops among cities in Washington that “stay up latest,” according to a survey by FindTheHome.com. The survey found cities with the highest percentage of people who start work between noon and midnight. For Bellingham, 19 percent started their workday late.

▪ Chair 8 at Mt. Baker Ski Area is one of the five top ski lifts in the Northwest, says snowbrains.com. With a vertical lift of nearly 1,600 feet and a top elevation of almost 5,100 feet, the chair provides access to what snowbrains calls “killer backcountry skiing.”

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