With a bit of creative numbers crunching, Santa Fe turns up at No. 2 in a new ranking of booming cities with fewer than 500,000 residents.
Santa Fe, with a population of 83,000, rates ahead of places like Boulder, Colo.; Reno, Nev.; and Raleigh, N.C.; and trails only Naples, Fla., according to a list put together by GOBankingRates, which bills itself as an online resource “for all things personal finance.”
As with most rankings, Santa Fe’s numbers in a report headlined “Paychecks Are Getting Bigger in These Boomtowns” can either raise spirits — or raise eyebrows.
Helped by statistics that might surprise many here, Santa Fe landed at No. 2 overall, with a No. 1 rank in population growth percentage among the 30 chosen cities with populations less than 500,000. It also was No. 2 in new housing growth from 2012-17. Conversely, the city’s ranking somehow did not suffer from a last-place ranking in gross domestic product growth and a middling No. 18 in income growth.
GOBankingRates’ analysis determined boomtown status on increasing income and economic growth, based on five-year changes in population, number of new housing units, per capita personal income and per capita personal income growth.
The survey eliminated the nation’s 34 largest cities, including Albuquerque and El Paso.
“Out of all the other cities on the list,” the GOBankingRates blurb reads, “Santa Fe experienced the largest population increase from 2012 to 2017 — 14,682 new residents — which makes it one of the fastest-growing cities on the list. It also experienced the second-highest increase in the percentage of housing units, which resulted in 4,406 new homes.”
Santa Fe, Bismarck, N.D., and Omaha, Neb., had the highest percentage gains in population and housing growth. The other 27 cities have considerably higher percentage growth in income and GDP growth.
For the most part, Santa Fe officials reacted to the survey with aplomb, perhaps because rankings, like numbers, are relative — and complex.
“What comes to mind is some of those cities are tech cities,” said Holly Bradshaw Eakes, owner of HollyCoStrategies, which manages the Finance New Mexico project, a public service project that provides business-building tools and connections. “I’m not seeing any creative communities. We’re a little different than the other cities you mention.”
Alexandra Ladd, the city’s housing special projects manager, noted Santa Fe’s population numbers could be skewed by the city’s annexation of areas once considered part of Santa Fe County. A Jan. 1, 2014 annexation to the city of 4,100 acres added 13,251 residents to the Santa Fe population, mostly between Airport Road and the Route 599 bypass.
Despite the lofty housing ranking, city officials have long acknowledged the reality on the ground is daunting: Santa Fe’s housing growth is only half the rate of its population growth, which feeds into a housing shortage that troubles local policymakers, homebuyers and those looking for apartments.
“The city is working on this,” said Eakes, who is a member of the city’s Economic Development Advisory Committee. “Housing is beginning to break through. We can catch up with this if we work hard and focus on that issue.”
Mayor Alan Webber in a statement said the ranking served as good news.
“Our aim going forward is to preserve and protect the unique quality of life that makes Santa Fe so special, while continuing to build jobs, housing, and safe, livable neighborhoods,” he said. “Santa Fe can be desirable, sustainable, and family-friendly, and this recognition makes that clear.”
But Eakes acknowledged rankings are relative.
“It really doesn’t matter as long as the information is accurate,” Eakes said. “It does indicate we are a vibrant community.”