A sign for Harker Heights greets drivers as they enter the city, Tuesday, May 20, 2014, along West U.S. Highway 190 in Harker Heights.

HARKER HEIGHTS — Military families relocating to the Fort Hood area this year should consider putting Harker Heights at the top of their list of communities to explore, according to a new study by USAA, a financial services provider focused on serving the military community and its eligible family members.

USAA developed the 2014 “Top Military Communities” list to identify areas that offer military families looking to rent or buy a high quality of life in an affordable, off-installation location.

Harker Heights was named one of the top five communities to live near a military installation.

“This recognition reinforces our goals to continue to provide the best quality of life we can for the betterment of our citizens,” said veteran and Heights Mayor Rob Robinson.

Other local areas receiving high marks in the study were Kempner and the south central portion of Killeen.

“Military families live a uniquely mobile lifestyle, receiving orders to move to a new duty station every few years. We want to make it easier for them to choose their next home,” said Sarah Goodwin, assistant vice president of USAA Home Circle. “This list — combined with Home Circle’s property search choices, detailed listings and network of preferred, local real estate agents — can help remove some of the uncertainty military families face when moving to an unfamiliar area.”

The study evaluated communities in the five U.S. metro areas with the greatest military active-duty and dependent populations, as reported by the Defense Department. USAA and a panel of real estate agents reviewed community variables, including crime rate, affordability, quality of primary schools, proximity to military installations and access to shopping, restaurants, and parks and recreation.

“I’m excited to find out that USAA has selected Harker Heights as one of the best military communities in which to live,” said Gina Pence, Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. “The chamber is proud of our city for this designation.” Each community variable was weighted based on what active-duty member families said was important to them, and then received a combined score from quantitative data and a qualitative assessment.

“This depicts what we have always wanted to portray,” said Pat Christ, Heights councilman and an Army veteran.

Herald correspondent Bob Massey contributed to this report.

Contact Vanessa Lynch at vlynch@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7567.

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