A lot of people have been moving to sunny Florida in recent years, and it’s often assumed that the newcomers are retirees looking to spend winters on the golf course, or the richest among us building beachfront mansions on the coast.
But today Florida is attracting another group in big numbers: families. As the Sunshine State’s population continues to soar, making Florida the third largest state in the nation, more and more families are finding that Florida is just what they’re looking for.
And one Florida city in particular is getting national recognition as an ideal place for families moving here: Tampa. A new study by the website Homes.com, an online home search tool, ranks Tampa Bay among the top 10 most family-friendly cities in the nation. If you’re raising kids, the site indicated, Tampa is a terrific choice.
The site ranked Tampa as the No. 8 city that’s most suitable for families. Their criteria included how many events, concerts and other activities are going on in downtown; close proximity to the beaches; and the quality of local schools.
And what a lot of families are discovering once they arrive in Tampa Bay is a host of activities suitable for the entire family, housing that is definitely affordable, and a thriving job market.
What Does Life in Tampa Offer Families?
Tampa is a historic city – and residents are dedicated to preserving that history. That includes the city’s rich cigar-making heritage in the Ybor City neighborhood, which is now Tampa’s Latin Quarter.
Tampa is also about the modern and the innovative. It’s job market, for example, leads the state when it comes to creating high skills, high wages jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.
But it has other strengths as well.
Tampa tends to score well when it comes to providing health care. In part that’s because Tampa is home to the medical campus of the University of South Florida, which has the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, a medical training and continuing education facility. It’s a place where surgeons from around the world arrive for advanced training.
Tampa is also blessed with the natural advantages that has made Florida so popular to begin with: a tropical year-round climate, close proximity to the beaches at St. Petersburg and Clearwater, and a thriving tourism industry. Visitors flock to the Busch Gardens theme park, but Tampa Bay also boasts of hosting a range of museums and attractions around downtown, and a thriving restaurant scene. More than a few locals like to brag that the Cuban sandwiches in Tampa Bay are even better than Miami’s.
These attributes have not only made Tampa a popular tourist destination, but also a city that a growing number of families want to call home. They arrive to discover Tampa’s unemployment rate is just 3.3 percent, below the state and national average, while the median home value is $209,000, well below the sky-high prices in cities like Los Angeles, Seattle and New York.
But as Homes.com noted in its report, Tampa ranks quite well on plenty of other attributes that are more important to families than tourists.
How Did Homes.Com Rank Cities for Being Family-Friendly?
The researchers at Homes.com set out to discover which U.S. cities are best for raising a family.
“The decision of where to call ‘home’ is a critical decision for new parents and can have a significant influence on the lives of their children,” Homes.com noted in its map of America’s Most Family-Friendly Cities.
The map compares the top 25 metropolitan areas in the U.S., then rates them on several factors, including:
* overall family-friendliness;
* crime rate;
* cost of living;
* availability of child care services;
* average commute times;
* school (K-12) quality;
* the availability of parks.
“Each of these factors was chosen as they can contribute to both a family’s quality of life and a child’s development,” the report noted.
The top 10 cities, including Tampa, earned high marks in nearly all the factors that got analyzed. Tampa was ranked as the eighth best city for families, ranking particularly high for the availability of parks and for relatively short commute times. Tampa, for example, has a large bus system that can get people off the highways.
The city also ranked well for its cost of living and low crime rate.
What Other Studies Rank Tampa High for Families?
The Homes.com study wasn’t an isolated report. A report by CNN Money confirmed that Tampa Bay benefits from its great weather and a lower cost of living, particularly for a beach town.
Although home prices have risen 14 percent here in the past year, the median price of homes that sold recently is $238,000. That’s considerably more affordable than other coastal cities in Florida like Naples, Miami and West Palm Beach.
Apartment List, another online site that helps people find a home, has its own list of the 100 Best Cities for Families nationwide, and ranked Tampa as No. 1.
They focused on four factors, ranking cities on safety and crime rates; housing costs; school quality, and overall child friendliness.
As Apartment List noted, “There’s still much to lure families to the Sunshine State,” including Tampa.
“Low crime rates helped this city along the Gulf of Mexico claim the title of Florida’s best city for families,” the report noted.
Apartment List also noted that Tampa benefits from:
* a solid percentage of children among its diverse population;
* availability of theme parks like Busch Gardens;
* plenty of outdoor activities;
* several major universities in the region;
* and housing affordability.
That’s helped convince a growing number of families that Tampa Bay is where they want to be looking to buy a home, settle down, and raise a family.
And the city has other major attributes, including:
* Climate. It could be as little as two weeks a year – or less – when anyone needs to wear a jacket. That means in winter, families can send their kids off to school in a t-shirt and not worry about the bitter cold gripping them.
* Entertainment. A lot of 20-somethings have flocked in recent years to neighborhoods like SoHo and Ybor, which offers them plenty of options to hit the nightclubs, go bar-hopping, and party into the late hours. But the city also boasts plenty of attractions for the entire family, like the Lowry Park Zoo, Florida Aquarium, and the Museum of Science and Industry. There are also lots of music venues and theaters in the area that catch touring shows.
* Business. Tampa is home to a lot of business headquarters and Fortune 500 satellite sites. Since Florida has no state income tax and great weather, cities like Tampa are magnets for entrepreneurs looking to start businesses here and newcomers looking for jobs. Neither one tends to be disappointed.
* Athletics. Tampa is home to major sports teams: football fans have the Bucs and the Storm, baseball fans have the Rays, hockey fans have the Lightning and soccer fans have the Rowdies. The University of Tampa and University of South Florida are also popular sites for college sports.
That’s a lot of reasons for families to call Tampa Bay home.
Family Friendly Tampa Bay
Studies are making it clear that families have good reasons to move to Tampa – and a lot of families are doing just that.
They’re often lured in by the strong economy and an affordable housing market. Add to the mix great cultural amenities and the appeal is obvious.
They arrive needing someplace to live, which is why builders like Domain Homes are constructing new houses here, anticipating the strong demand.
Domain Homes procures older, dilapidated houses in some of the city’s most appealing neighborhoods, and replaces them with brand new, move-in ready homes.
The neighborhoods that Domain Homes builds in include highly sought-after, established neighborhoods like South Tampa, West Tampa, North Hyde Park, the Heights, and St. Petersburg. These locations are close to the top-rated school districts, the downtown cultural amenities and shopping, and to the jobs centers.