Conservatives are moving to Billings, Montana, from coastal cities to be around people who share their views, the mayor says

A shot of buildings in Billings, Montana with rolling green hills in the distance.
Billings is the most populous city in Montana peeterv
  • A Montana mayor says Republicans are moving there from the coasts to be near like-minded people.
  • Montana is seen as “more red,” which attracts some people, Mayor Bill Cole of Billings told TIME.
  • Billings topped a WSJ index of best US property investments, partly because of a hot housing market.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The mayor of Montana’s most populous city, Billings, says some people have moved from coastal states to the area because they want to be around other conservatives.

Bill Cole told TIME magazine that he believed three major factors had brought newcomers to the city: affordable housing, people prioritizing their family and community over their work, and politics.

“We see it – people coming from California, maybe parts of Washington, the Seattle area, larger cities. Places like Montana are going to be perceived to be further to the right, more red, and that has certain attractions for some,” Cole said, per TIME.

“Driving back to the office for this interview, I was behind a BMW 328 with a personalized license plate that said ‘Trump 24,’ which you would not do in downtown Manhattan.'”

Cole did not provide data to back up this view.

Cole’s comments come after Billings, which has a population of 109,000, topped The Wall Street Journal’s Emerging Housing Markets Index in July – a rank of the places where homebuyers can expect the strongest return on their investment.

The Journal collaborated with real estate site Realtor.com to analyze data on housing supply, listing prices, and local employment, among other factors, to determine the best places for homebuyers to invest in the US.

The Journal said that Billings ranked first thanks to its hot housing market, affordable properties, and its relatively low 3% unemployment rate, which was well below the 5.9% national average calculated by the Labor Department.

The price of an average single-family home in Billings surged 32% to $US376,248 ($AU512,470) in the year to June, according to The Journal, which cited data from the Billings Association of Realtors.

About 65% of page views for Billings’ properties came from outside the area in the second quarter, up from 57% the same time last year, The Journal reported, citing Realtor.com data.

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Here’s where Americans are moving to and from

Billings is also relatively close to areas of natural beauty, including Yellowstone National Park, which is about a three-and-a-half-hour drive away.

Cole said that people in Billings do not prioritize work as much as in other parts of the country. This is a major draw for some buyers, he said.

“The first question when you meet somebody new is not always ‘What do you do?’ It is just as likely to be ‘Oh, I see you got a new truck. How do you like your new truck?'” Cole told TIME.

“Or you’re walking your dog and people will ask, ‘Do you bird hunt with your dog?’ It’s subtle, but it matters.”

Some buyers have moved from coastal cities to states such as Texas and Florida during the pandemic as many jobs went remote. A Zillow survey in April said that 11% of Americans have moved since the pandemic hit last year.