Why SF is So Crazy Expensive & DC/NY Are Better

As we’ve established and you already knew deep in your bones, the same house will be more expensive in Greenwich, CT, than in Fargo, ND. What you may not have known, though, is that the difference in price is not merely reflective of the difference of costs, specifically land and material costs in CT vs ND. There’s an X factor too, or, as the experts call it, a “shadow price,” that makes San Francisco so absurdly unaffordable it might as well be Mars.

The price of a house or apartment, the authors argued, is more than just the value of the land plus the value of the building. There’s a third, shadow price, which represents how difficult it is to get something built given local regulations. In highly restrictive places like San Francisco, regulations impede the supply of new buildings, and so raise the price of housing.

So, like, for example, materials and land cost 2x the national average in SF, and yet a house costs 3.6x the national average. The difference can be attributed to regulations. You know, bureaucracy, red tape, all that nonsense. The Economist flatly states, “the [Bay Area] is one of the most difficult places to build in the country. Prices are therefore soaring and neighbourhoods are changing, touching off some occasionally nasty social conflicts.”

DC apartments, though nutsy, remain more reasonable than SF’s, in part because, after our nation’s capital went through crisis after crisis between 1969 and 2001, it decided to get back on its feet by investing in tons of new housing — for DINKs. If you build it, DC figured, they will come, “they” being single, sexy, spendy types, which represent more short-term gain for an urban area. And lo, the city was right

Hometown Stories: Rhinebeck, New York

I have left Rhinebeck many times in my life. The first time I left I was in the ninth grade, fed up with the small town and its lack of diversity, aghast at my freshmen English curriculum that trafficked solely in dead white men tempered with a dose of Pearl S. Buck. I moved to California and lived with my mother for the rest of high school and gained the kind of cultural education I never would have gotten in my hometown.

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

Guess 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. 

You Never Leave Houston

Houston, the fourth-largest city in America, has a self-esteem problem. Our local boosters are continuously looking for new branding approaches, commissioning expensive ads and websites extolling our municipal virtues. There was "Houston, It’s worth it;" "Houston is hip/tasty/inspired," and the latest "Houston, the city without limits." The city’s younger residents are partial to the more profane "Fuck You, Houston’s Awesome," in response to criticisms of the city. There are many reasons for this insecurity. For Houstonians, who know of our parks, our museums, our bars, our restaurants, our people, it can feel like the rest of the country has settled on an idea of the city that’s still stuck on fading memories of . There is also the nagging sense that perhaps they’re right; that Houston, for all of its diversity, for all of its affordability, for all of its expansiveness, maybe isn’t that awesome, and that better pastures lie just a plane ride away.