Maybe Pittsburgh-Rich is Rich Enough

pittsburgh-1942

Further to Mike’s post about how much money people think they need to feel rich, and my own recent suggestion that we learn to be content with more modest artistic achievements, here is a synthesis of reasons why maybe you shouldn’t move to New York or San Francisco.

The article’s a little bit scattershot, and it gets confusing when comparing Austin, New York, and Pittsburgh while quoting Richard Florida (whose name is a place!), but here’s the TL;DR: Brooklyn and other traditional go-to places for those in search of artistic ferment are so expensive that creative people are finally willing to settle for a place like Pittsburgh, “where you can have a part-time job at a coffee shop, still afford a mortgage payment and be able to go out once a week.”

I’m guessing that bit about the mortgage is hyperbole, but the point stands: New York-poor is not just Pittsburgh-rich, it’s practically-everywhere-else-rich. So the questions that remain are, (1) is it enough to flourish creatively in Pittsburgh? and (2) are Pittsburgh, Hartford, Omaha, and all the other as-yet-ungentrified, small, post-industrial cities simply farther down the list of places that capitalism will ultimately embrace, devour, and make inaccessible to people of modest means?

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10 Comments / Post A Comment

Worgchef (#6,838)

Been in Austin since 1989. I queued up Slacker on Netflix about 6 months ago. Made me super nostalgic to see how much the city has changed in 25 years.

I was shocked earlier in the year when I realized that going out to eat in Breckenridge, CO (a ski town) was cheaper than here in ATX.

Probably means my girls will be bound for somewhere cheaper once they grow up. Or maybe we’ll have another oil bust like we did in the 80′s and Austin will turn into a ghost town again!

And, hah, I have had a drink with Wammo way back in the day at a poetry slam or hoot night or something.

dollars¢s (#6,912)

Finally coming out of lurkerdom to say that the bit about mortgage payment in Pittsburgh is not necessarily hyperbole. My husband and I bought a house in Pittsburgh for $70,000 two years ago. It has three bedrooms (or four, if you count the finished attic) and a little yard. For right now, buying is often cheaper than renting here.

@dollars¢s I mostly meant paying the mortgage on income from part-time coffee shop work. I have no doubt that fine houses can be had cheap (I live in Hartford, Conn., so I know how it goes), but on a part-time, low-wage income?

TeaCamelPyramid (#5,197)

I moved to Pittsburgh 10 years ago expecting to move back to DC immediately after grad school. But then I found a deal on a nice house within walking distance of my university, one I could afford on my tiny research assistant salary. Then I got married and had a kid. I recently contemplated moving to Silicon Valley for a tech job that would pay me double my current salary, but it was an easy calculation to conclude that it was better to stick with our inexpensive house, keep our short commutes and continue to afford my daughter’s amazing preschool.

Pittsburgh rich is pretty good. I’m going back to school for an MBA in the fall loan-free, which is possible with a full ride and the fact that we can live off of one salary. Even when money is tight there are still free things like the library, regular street fairs, porch sitting with friends. Yesterday my family went mulberry and sour cherry picking in the park down the street.

I do wish that there were more direct flights from the airport, and the winters get a bit old after a while. Also, one of the reasons my house is so affordable is that it is 21 stairs from my front door to the street. However, it is like living in a fort and we do value zombie prep here.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@TeaCamelPyramid I love everything about this comment. Your life sounds lovely. Can I come stay in your attic when the zombie apocalypse starts?

ThatJenn (#916)

@TeaCamelPyramid Yes, this. I don’t live in Pittsburgh – I live in Gainesville, FL – but we have many of the same pros/cons. My husband and I live off one salary so he can go to school, but the lack of a real major airport nearby kind of sucks sometimes. The winters are obviously a pro rather than a con here but we have our own woes (the soul-deadening political landscape). I just turned down a job offer that could have paid me up to 1.6x what I make here but in San Diego, where cost of living is more than twice as high, because it just didn’t make financial sense to take it. Gainesville rich has been really good to us, and the job market is getting better here, not worse – with a city that knows that expanding/improving public services is a key way to attract these new businesses, so we all benefit. (Though given Gainesville’s obsession with becoming more like Austin, perhaps the feeling of being rich here won’t last forever.)

Clare (#2,138)

I went to Pitt, so I’m biased, but if I could find a job in Pittsburgh that pays what I make now at a company outside of Philadelphia, I would move back in a heartbeat. The tech industry is booming, the creative scene is thriving, and the cost of living is dirt cheap.

BlueShade (#6,915)

If you can find a job and a place to live in Pittsburgh, it’s great: low cost of living, booming restaurant and bar scene, better reputation, etc. Unfortunately both markets are saturated right now. The apartment vacancy rate is 3%, one of the lowest in the country, real estate prices are rising in almost every neighborhood, and while we have great universities and hospitals that means a constant flow of recent graduates looking for jobs, residencies, and a place to live. Pittsburgh is well aware that both its image and economy are on the rise, and while I too love it there are lots of growing pains. Interested to see how the city handles the next five years.

eatmoredumplings (#3,808)

@BlueShade Yeah, I am hoping to be able to move to Pittsburgh (family there, it seems pretty nice, and it’s cheaper than the unbelievably expensive Boston metro area where I live now). But it’s going to take a year and a half at the absolute minimum, everyone else is also realizing Pittsburgh is pretty nice, and I’m afraid there won’t be any more jobs or cheap places by the time I make it happen!

dude (#5,879)

But here’s the thing about those once-ungentrified areas that experience gentrification — for those early settlers/natives who stick around, it often makes them very rich. I lived in Brooklyn on the cusp of Park Slope and Sunset Park where I watched this happen before my eyes, and folks who’d bought places for tens of thousands of dollars 20 years earlier were instant millionaires. So it’s not all bad. Indeed, it’s happening in my current area, where I am now a homeowner, and I’m psyched about it, because it is making my property value go up, up, up. And for every one of those places, there are dozens of others where “people of modest means” can live well. Too often people are shackled to an area by nothing more than nostalgia.

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