Meet Me in St. Louis — or El Paso, Oklahoma City, or Little Rock

texas foreverGuess what, America! Grab your bags; we’re moving inland. At least we are according to this hilarious NYT trend piece about the country’s fastest growing, affordable, non-coastal cities:

But of those who moved more than 500 miles, the share who said they were chiefly motivated by housing has risen to 18 percent in 2014, from 8 percent in 2007, the earliest year such data is available, according to the Census Bureau. The desire for a new, better or cheaper home and the opportunity to buy instead of rent were among the housing-related reasons people cited. … “A large percentage of Americans had to read ‘The Grapes of Wrath,’ ” said Mayor Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City, referring to the John Steinbeck novel that chronicled the flight of Oklahomans to California in search of a better life during the Depression. Now the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those migrants are returning for the same reason. “It’s ‘The Wrath of Grapes,’ ” he said.

Ha! I’d move to Oklahoma City just to hang out with that guy. 

Some of the newcomers say that as they contemplated living with roommates, sitting in traffic and barely scraping by, the good things about life in a high-cost city lost their appeal. “The beach isn’t going to pay my rent,” said Jacqueline Sit, 32, who left Portland, Ore., where she worked as a television reporter, to come to Oklahoma City, where she quickly found a job in public relations. Mr. Olson, 42, who was recruited by the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation after finishing his postdoctoral work, said his family had not shed tears over leaving New York. “There’s a little less to do, yeah,” he said. “But now we can afford to do it.”

Basically they’ve all been reading, and taking a cue from, GOOD ENOUGH Homes & Destinations. So … you’re welcome, America!

Meanwhile, “Brooklyn Developers Struggle to Fill Affordable Apartments in Downtown Brooklyn” because developers have effectively instituted a Poll Tax:

The affordable housing lottery at 66 Rockwell Place opened in March of 2013. After several lottery rounds, developers, who must give priority to local residents, could not find enough qualified applicants from Community Board 2 for the affordable units. A spokesman for the building said people living in the neighborhood made too much money to qualify. [ed note: god, this is such bullshit. okay sorry I’ll be quiet.]

Rob Solano, director of Churches United For Fair Housing, says locals are being disqualified for silly errors and subpar credit scores. Solano, along with local politicians and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership,hosted a workshop Thursday night at Brown Memorial Church in Clinton Hill to help Community Board 2 residents with their applications for affordable units in developments. Projects including City Point Phase 2, Atlantic Yards and BAM North are set to offer 1,100 affordable housing units in the next three years. There was a line down the block and approximately 800 residents packed the church. [ed note: emphasis added. But see what I mean?]

Between this and the well-heeled members of the Brooklyn Heights gentry protesting the building of affordable housing down the street because God forbid some middle-class children share “their” city park (“‘The Heights does not play well with others,’ Ms. Francis said”), I’m nearly ready to admit that we deserve the ebola epidemic that’s coming. But then I walk down Adelphi Street with my belly full of frites and I go mushy inside all over again.


24 Comments / Post A Comment

You know where I stand. I was a confirmed and proudly chauvinistic Brooklynite from when being from Brooklyn actually implied you could hold your own in a fight, but I love the small, non-coastal city I live in now.

BillfoldMonkey (#1,754)

I live in a non-coastal city but Tim Riggins is not here. What am I doing wrong, please advise.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@BillfoldMonkey RIGGINS.

erinep (#4,236)

@BillfoldMonkey When I saw the photo I wondered just how many Billfold posts have a Riggins photo. Riggins is also not in my non-coastal city.

RiffRandell (#4,774)

@erinep Not enough posts. Never enough posts.

limenotapple (#1,748)

I love my house payment. I like how much disposable income I have. Our motto? “St. Louis…it’s not that bad”.

Thuja (#2,542)

@limenotapple I’m a STL transplant too. My motto for St Louis used to be “St Louis, it’s almost Detroit” but I like it better now.
Everything is free here. I’m ruined for other cities. $15 for the zoo in Seattle! In St Louis, the zoo is FREE.

@fo (#839)

@Thuja @limenotapple:

Do y’all live *in* St Louis? Or in the County? STL has its challenges, but relative affordability (in most things) is great.

Thuja (#2,542)

@@fo I live IN the city but I work in the county. I don’t have one of those CITY bumper stickers though

limenotapple (#1,748)

@@fo I live just over the city county border, in the county (old neighborhood, 100 year old house). But I work in Illinois. I can technically take mass transit to work, but there is only one bus from the train station to my work, and my work life is not that flexible, hours-wise. If there was one thing I would change, it’s transit. Oh and the horrible race relations.

@Thuja Yeah, the CITY stickers

Thuja (#2,542)

@limenotapple Oh my god the race relations. I live a block south of Delmar right on the border of the Central West end and “North” St Louis. It’s absurd. I have bike partols on my block all the time, but you go a block north and there is zero police presence. It’s like the PD is only there to protect the white neighborhoods. My neighbors are so flinchy about going north too. They tell all the new neighbors don’t walk on or go past Delmar and I’m all, but that’s where the Aldi’s isssss and I refuse to be afraid of my neighborhood/neighbors just because they look different.
And I think those bumper stickers are part of it! Like, what, do you want a medal for living in the scary/but really just normal city?

limenotapple (#1,748)

@Thuja Wow, you just captured how I feel about those stickers. I never had the words before.
You aren’t that far from me, really. My mother thinks I live in a ghetto because my neighborhood is mixed-race, and also a mix of ages and classes. I just like to be able to ride my bike to the zoo.

kellyography (#250)

@limenotapple @limenotapple A lot of these reasons are why I left St. Louis to begin with! I know I could buy a nice house and maybe be a bit of a bigger fish in a smaller pond, but I just don’t know that I could actually live there again, especially being spoiled for things like transit in the NYC metro area. Now I’m trying to leave NYC for SF because winter is bunk and I’d like to live without that for a while, too.

Allison (#4,509)

Chicago is highly affordable when compared to the Bay Area!

Lily Rowan (#70)

@Allison Also NYC or Boston. I did some househunting in Chicago and was shocked and amazed!

@fo (#839)

@Lily Rowan

The challenge in all comes when one has kids–the location and housing options if you want to (1) stay in the city, and (2) have good a local school, get pretty constrained. ‘course, that’s at least as true in EsEff, NYC and the Hub, and from a higher price of entry, too.

chevyvan (#2,956)

@Allison True. Way more affordable than a lot of places, but SWEET MOTHER MARY GROCERIES AND GAS ARE SO EXPENSIVE HERE. I know NYC folks will laugh at me, but it’s awful. I *was* able to give up my car, though!

Allison (#4,509)

@chevyvan I’ve never had a car here, so I can’t really speak to that. But I did have a friend nearly give herself scurvy because she thought produce prices were redic.

@@fo Yes! We have at least two years left in Chicago due to my husband’s contract and our first kiddo is due in two months (uh yikes) and it’s definitely changing the “Chicago affordable” dynamic.

It’s sort of related to the guy in the article who said “there is less to do but we can afford it” – there is so much to do but we barely have the time and holy crap day care and private school (if you don’t get lucky with public school placement) prices hurt.

Cat Named Louise (#1,943)

I got really excited when I looked at an affordable housing application and realized that my feller and I qualified — but then realized that the “affordable” apartment was a 2-bedroom for $100 less than the 3 bedroom we rent now, and we wouldn’t have the extra room to rent out from time-to-time

TreeTownGirl (#7,031)

I saw this article yesterday and was just waiting for it to pop up here. Having been born, raised, and still living in Michigan– where brain drain is definitely real– I found it interesting to see who stayed and who left after college. I love pretty much everything about Michigan– including Detroit– except for winters and the occasional wave of political idiocy. I had a suspicion that with the way technology is that it was possible to make it anywhere, so I might as well live somewhere cheap. And staying made it even cheaper. Plus I’ll admit I like the street cred that comes with Detroit.

Three years out of college and I’m still content. I agree with the sentiment that there’s less to do… but there’s definitely more time and money to do it. I’ve also learned that it’s possible to craft the perfect life on instagram from anywhere. I would get so jealous over the pics of people doing glamorous city things… until you actually talk to them and realize they’ve got the same problems you do, if not more so.

And then I’ve got a couple friends that are still looking for that perfect city to live in. You know– the place that has great weather 100% of the time, everyone is nice, lots of urban things to do with some nature things mixed in, politics they like, jobs in their field, and of course it has to be cheap! Do people find that place? I’m actually fairly serious about that question, since I’ve always struggled with pessimism.

@fo (#839)


“the occasional wave of political idiocy”

This is what I find amusing about Ester’s minor fascination with OKC. What is a ‘wave of political idiocy’ in Michigan is the calm sea of popular sentiment in Oklahoma.

“the place that has great weather 100% of the time, everyone is nice, lots of urban things to do with some nature things mixed in, politics they like, jobs in their field, and of course it has to be cheap! Do people find that place? I’m actually fairly serious about that question[.]”

Taking the criteria in order:

1. “great weather” means something different to different people–I, personally, would want nothing to do with any part of the SE over to TX, weather-wise, and prefer Chicago (where I am) to anyplace other than the pacific coast, and prefer SF weather to San Diego–so I’m a little off. So easy to disagree about.

2. “everyone is nice”–everyone is ‘nice’ in Minneapolis. I can’t live in Minneapolis bc it’s a facade that helps keep strangers away. YMMV, of course, and ‘nice’ is also so objective.

3. “urban activity + nature nearby” this I think is pretty obtainable in about 3/4 of the top 200 metros. So long as you aren’t too picky about the ‘nature’ aspect, and the smaller burgs are going to have the same crowd at most of the ‘urban’ stuff you like most times, which really can be a plus, if they satisfy #23 for you.

4. “politics” can be tough, and you can usually find the like-minded community in any big-enough area–tho it’s much harder for the ‘social conservative’ in SF or NYC than it is for the ‘godless librul’ in Dallas or Houston. Have to be comfortable being a political minority, tho, and that’s harder the smaller the place.

5. “jobs”. Meh. Hit or miss, especially if one narrows their field too much. But there are ‘jobs’ everywhere, just a matter of how good the opportunity, present and future.

6. “cheap”. Well, if the place truly has all of 1 to 5, and you’re not a total weirdo about satisfying 1, 2 and 3 (say, liking the man camp vibe of Williston, but without the jobs of Williston), then there likely are a lot of other people who agree with you, and it limits the ‘cheap’. Also, ‘cheap’ is contextual, and depends on #5, and what those jobs actually pay–while OKC seems very ‘cheap’ to someone with NYC/DC wage history, it’s much less so (but not not heap) on ‘normal’ OKC wages.

So, do ‘people’ find that place? Yeah, but does that place exist for a given person? Maybe not. It doesn’t exactly exist for me–but there are a number of places that are pretty close (mostly missing the cheap, which could be pulled off with some compromise on other items).

TreeTownGirl (#7,031)

@@fo I agree with pretty much all of that. I don’t think the perfect city exists for me either, I just find it fascinating to watch some of my single friends hop around in pursuit of what they consider perfect. I’m not nearly bold enough to do it myself, so there’s definitely some envy involved!

There are two friends in particular that are polar opposites and speak to a lot of your points. The one might be able to find his perfect place without compromise– he works in tech so basically any American city is affordable to him. And if they’re all affordable to you suddenly the world is your oyster– and he’s actually considering an international move right now. It’s been both fascinating and frustrating to see how picky he can be and get away with it.

The other works in a much more limited, lower-paying field and is much more specific about each point I listed… to the point where it’s almost comical watching her move to a new place full of optimism and watch it all wash away in less than six months. These adventures are also partially funded by her parents, otherwise I don’t think the high expectations would have lasted this long.

But technically neither of them has found “it” yet, so it’s just made me curious to see if anyone has found happiness that way. Like I said, I love Michigan and I intend to stay for the foreseeable future, but I’ve never lived anywhere else and I do sometimes wonder if there is indeed greener grass out there (that might not literally be true considering all the drought in the US right now, ha…)

thegirlieshow (#5,285)

Hmm current Bostonian here who sometimes dreams about going back to El Paso to participate in homeownership…

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