Of the towns surrounding Research Triangle Park, Raleigh, Cary, Apex and Chapel Hill most often get the national attention on “Best Places to Live” lists.
Now Morrisville is joining the mix, and town leaders are enjoying the spotlight.
The town of about 30,000 in western Wake County is rated the No. 1 place to live in North Carolina in 2019, according to Housing Predictor, a national real estate survey company.
The ranking is based on public school systems, the housing market, family friendliness, jobs, diversity and health and fitness. The company used resident reviews, public records and other statistics to determine the rankings.
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Morrisville also topped several lists in 2018-19 rankings on the website, Niche.com, which says it helps “connect people to their future schools, neighborhoods and workplaces.” Niche.com, which uses a variety of data to evaluate towns, ranks Morrisville at the top of the lists for Best Place to Live, Best Place to Raise a Family and Best Place for Millennials in North Carolina.
“People do read those types of articles, and they do read those rankings, and that does play into people’s decision about where to move or where to relocate their business,” said Sarah Gaskill, president of the Morrisville Chamber of Commerce.
Mayor TJ Cawley said he is pleased Morrisville is getting the recognition usually showered upon its neighbors.
“Our location is a blessing,” Cawley said. “But that also means that people more people want to live here.”
In September, Cary came in at No. 5 on Money magazine’s 2018 Top 50 Best Places to Live list, produced in partnership with Realtor.com. Apex was named Money’s No. 1 place to live in the country in 2015.
Gaskill said the town’s proximity to other highly ranked places is good for the community.
“We live in an exciting place because you have access to most anything that you need, whether it’s here in your own community or just right next door,” Gaskill said.
The town’s affordability is one factor in Morrisville’s favor, according to Housing Predictor. The median value is $291,000, according to the website, which is above the state median of $163,000 but is lower than nearby Raleigh. Renting versus owning is evenly split in Morrisville, the survey said.
But Cawley is concerned that the market is pressuring that affordability. Home values, driven by rising demand and shortage of for-sale inventory, are increasing.
“The market is going to drive prices up, and we’re not going to stay affordable,” he said. “You can’t fight against the market in that way. We’re going to try to be really intentional about having affordable housing and workforce housing, and we might have to help the market to do that. A lot of towns are struggling with that.
He still wants the town to be affordable for its residents and those who work there.
“We pride ourselves on being really accessible to our residents,” Cawley said. “We’re just a group of neighborhoods. It’s just we are a small town and we enjoy that. And we take pride in it, we’re going to be hitting 30,000 people very soon. And that’s a mixed bag, because people want to come here. But we also want to preserve the small town feel that we have.”
The high education level among residents — where more than 40 percent have either bachelor’s or master’s degrees — is also a strength, Cawley said. Residents earn nearly $100,000 annually on average.
Cawley said he wants to continue to celebrate the town’s diversity, and share other people’s cultures with residents.
“A lot of people sort of stay in their silos, and I’d love to have the different faith communities talking to each other, attending each other’s events,” he said. “That’s why the East Meets West Festival, which has been going on for six years, has been so important. It brings all the different cultures together.”