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Paul

In this case I think New York is pretty representative of urban areas in general... at least in my experience... and Pittsburgh is no different. While housing costs in Pittsburgh are lower than other cities so are salaries and the housing split is still the same. If you earn a high salary or were fortunate enough to have been born a trust-baby you can choose to live in the "nice" neighborhoods of Squirrel Hill/Point Breeze, Shadyside and Highland Park replete with their mega-sized castles. If however you don't have family money or your household income is below $70,000 (nearly twice the median household income of the area) your housing choices run from bad to worse.

We spent years, literally, home shopping for something that could accommodate a family of four and there was nothing in the city, or any high density community near by, that was in reach of a truly middle income family that didn't entail exposing the kids to some dangerous situation. Inevitably someone will say but this neighborhood or that and all I can do is shake my head in disbelief at the low expectations that have become ingrained in native Pittsburgh's idea of what is suitable housing.

People who think that living in the suburbs is always a simple choice based on superficial preferences often have never tried finding a place to live for a couple with modest income and two or three kids.

Paul

And of course this is my "favorite" part of high density/urban living...

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07263/819044-53.stm

Jonathan Barnes

What're the numbers you're working with?
You could get a huge Victorian house in Bellevue or Avalon for around $100,000, and you can get a smaller house in Blackridge (where I live) for anywhere from $75,000 to $130,00. The community covers parts of Wilkinsburg, Penn Hills and Churchill.
Maybe all of those places are too "dangerous" for you, but I don't buy it.
Maybe you think Northgate, Woodland Hills and Penn Hills are inferior schools, and that's where the danger lies. I would agree with you about Wilkinsburg School District because of its poor reputation, and Penn Hills now is majority black, so some whites don't want that for their kids.
But the suggestion that there isn't affordable housing in Pittsburgh or its inner-ring suburbs is absurd.

Jonathan Barnes

"all I can do is shake my head in disbelief at the low expectations that have become ingrained in native Pittsburgh's idea of what is suitable housing."

The above quote sums up your opinion, doesn't it, Paul?

Maybe we should all be sipping lattes in Ballard, living in $400,000 fixer-upper cottages smack next to a bunch of pretentious white neighbors.

Sam M

JB writes:

"But the suggestion that there isn't affordable housing in Pittsburgh or its inner-ring suburbs is absurd."

Agreed. But I am not sure to what extent some "urbanists" appreciate the "inner-ring suburbs." In fact, I am not sure to what extent some of them appreciate certain sections of the city itself.

I am thinking specifically of plans that favor, in one way or another, "downtown" over all else. That has been something I have been wondering about a lot, obviously. We are spending all these millions of dollars to "create" an 89th neighborhood in the city. But no one seems to be at all curious what effect this will have on the other 88. I have asked repeatedly for some kind of data about where all these new Golden Triangle residents will come from. And I keep getting vague responses about Cleveland-this and exurb-that.

I have always contended that at least some of the new residents will be coming from established uppr-class enclaves like Shadyside and Squirrel Hill. In fact, I think a lot of them might. But nobody seems to have the will or the resourcs to actually ask. Which seems weird. I am pretty sure I have seen other cities answer these questions.

Paul

"Maybe we should all be sipping lattes in Ballard, living in $400,000 fixer-upper cottages smack next to a bunch of pretentious white neighbors."

Quite the opposite Johnathan.. the point is that a solidly middle class family can't afford the $400,000 house (whether it be in Squirrel Hill/Shadyside where that price will barely get you in the door or Hampton) so when a family of four earning the median income in the region starts home shopping the simple fact is they find more house for their dollar outside the city (or what ever you choose to call it) than they do inside.

Terms like affordable housing aren't really helpful and looking at cost of the house without considering the ability of resident to pay for it are pretty useless. Instead of just home prices the real estate industry uses a statistic called the Housing Affordability Index which measures what percentage of a regions average and median household incomes are able to obtain a mortgage on average and median price homes using standard mortgage issuing guidelines... Pittsburgh does not fair well in this regard and their ranking has been slipping.

Can you find a home in the neighborhoods for $75,000 to $130,000 as suggested? Absolutely. Are significant percentages of the people living in region able to buy houses in that price range on the incomes they earn? Not really.

More importantly for the purposes of this discussion if you are in the income range that allows for the purchase of home in that price range can you find more home for the same price outside the city/high-density locations? Yes you absolutely can with no difficulty as we found out and all of our friends who are following us out of the city are finding.

There is an utterly absurd expectation amongst the advocates of urban/high density living that middle income families should willingly accept on street parking and the trials of the street sweeping gestapo, a toilet sitting open on the floor of a basement, damp musty basements, life in the summer with fans, a strip of concrete for their children to play on a whole list of sub-standard housing features they euphemistically call "character," and forgo the central air, backyard, multiple bathrooms, finished family rooms, garage and drive way for the same price simply to satisfy someone else's notions of propriety.

Show me any house price you choose in the city and I guarantee you I'll find a bigger, newer, better maintained house with more of the most desirable amenities outside the city OR a similar house at a lower cost, here in Pittsburgh or in any other metro area... It's just that simple.

If you desire to buy a dilapidated, outdated, inefficient and poorly appointed Victorian in Bellevue or Avalon and commit yourself to decades of shockingly high maintenance costs and "doing without" modern amenities, you can do it and more power to you. But anyone who thinks that's what most middle income families with the burdens and costs of raising children view as acceptable housing stock then you're just delusional.


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