Author Topic: Urbanism and Mustachianism  (Read 1594 times)

Log

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 48
  • Age: 24
  • Location: all over the place, USA
Urbanism and Mustachianism
« on: January 10, 2022, 12:37:50 PM »
I used to consider myself "not a city person." I grew up in a suburban town (pop. ~25,000), went to undergrad in a tiny college town (population under 10,000), and then went to grad school in... New York City. I spent way too much of my time living in New York City complaining about how expensive it was and fantasizing about getting away to nature for a weekend but never actually doing it. I suppose I never prioritized getting away because underneath my complaining and my deeply ingrained suburban biases, I was slowly falling in love with the city, and was actually perfectly content with not leaving Manhattan for weeks or months at a time. Shortly after returning to suburbia after graduating, the Youtube algorithm began feeding me Urbanism content a few months ago and I have since been ~radicalized~.

Here's a good taste of Not Just Bikes, the channel which first brought me down this rabbit-hole: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ul_xzyCDT98, and here's a more policy wonk-ish video on taxes and the fundamental unsustainability of the typical American sprawl model: https://youtu.be/7IsMeKl-Sv0.

While I see a lot of potential overlap between these communities, I also see giant dilemma in our way: well-designed cities are so scarce in North America that they all become obscenely expensive, so become condemned as "VHCOL" cities. There seems to be a prevailing sentiment here that only stupid sheep would live in these places unless they were there for extremely high-paid work that they couldn't get elsewhere, because obviously they could save more money if they lived and worked elsewhere. As if saving money is the end-all-be-all of happiness, and that the benefits of living in a great city couldn't possibly be worth the additional cost. The thinking seems to stop there, rather than suggest that if these places are so desirable to live in, maybe we should try to build more of our places to be like them.

I could rant rather endlessly about these topics so I'd better stop sooner rather than later. Just hope to inspire some thoughts and discussion.

seattlecyclone

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6374
  • Age: 37
  • Location: Seattle, WA
    • My blog
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2022, 12:56:23 PM »
I live in Seattle. I love the place, particularly the parts that were built before suburban development patterns took over in the mid-20th century. I very much agree with the main thesis behind the Strong Towns movement. Suburban development would never have happened without as much subsidy as it received, and it's going to need to continue receiving subsidies to survive.

Sprawl is environmentally unsustainable as well. More people need to live in cities going forward, and our governments need to get their zoning codes out of the way of constructing the homes and other buildings that will make that possible.

In the meantime I think a lot of people do recognize how living in a traditional human-scale city is actually really nice, so they've driven the prices up in a lot of these places. I don't think I'd say everyone here advocates staying away from higher-cost areas, but living in an expensive city definitely involves trade-offs. Unless you work in one of the higher-paying industries in that town you're probably not going to reach FI as fast as if you lived elsewhere. That's the reality, and it's unfortunate, but it is what it is.

Villanelle

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4546
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2022, 01:36:40 PM »
Spouse and are aren't yet sure where we will land and having moves so much, we don't really have a home base, so in a sense, everything is open and available to us.

But I am drawn to larger cities, and to living in what are usually the more expensive parts of those cities, because there is true walkability and access to nearly everything we need on a monthly basis, if not longer.  Our budget will be much larger, but for us, it is well worth it.  We lived suburban (right now, do to work being in the 'burbs instead of the city centers), semi-rural, high density suburbs (not sure how else to describe where we lived in Japan), and what I'd call semi-urban.  Pretty much everything except super rural, and downtown high-rise type living, so we have a great sense of what works for us and what doesn't.  Ideal for us is sort of a smaller urban center that is part of a very large urban area.  This was our last place, and a place we lived near San Diego, too.  Both felt like older "Main Street" type living, with nearly everything walkable, but still less crowded than actual city center.  Unfortunately, these seem to be the *most* expensive situations in most places.  We did save some by walking for many errands and only owning 1 car, but not enough to make up the COL differences, from even 10 miles away.  Again, for us it is worth it, and I do hope we end up in a similar place for retirement. 

ChpBstrd

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3689
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2022, 02:31:31 PM »
I lived in Oak Park, IL for a year and it was a magical experience for someone who had previously spent their lives in suburbia. I too bitched at the time about the lack of parking and street people constantly begging for change. I wondered about how people could possibly be happy without a quarter-acre lawn to mow and a place to leave multiple large dogs outside all day. I had still internalized the cultural messages I had received growing up about what sorts of things I should desire. But in the end I was a couple of blocks - with sidewalks! - away from a grocery store and the train which led me to work downtown while I watched the cars idling on the perpetually clogged interstate. Riding the blue line felt like such a luxury compared to dealing with traffic.

This was over 20 years ago, and even then the price of real estate in such a paradise was astronomical. I remember thinking it was a neat place, but only for millionaires. Anyone else who tried to buy into such a fancy neighborhood would surely be on the wage slave treadmill forever. There were such neighborhoods in suburbia too, where people would stretch to get into a prestigious area and thus condemn themselves to house-poverty. I too felt the draw of such neighborhoods, but I also sensed them as a trap. I applied this framework to the Chicago area too, and resolved that I could have it all and also not pay too much for it.

I eventually ended up in a loft apartment in a Southern city, where "downtown" was mostly parking lots. Because I was still car dependent, I really felt the inconvenience of street parking. I was also annoyed by the street people and the fact that I was in a food desert. I decamped for the suburbs. The system reinforced itself.

Log

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 48
  • Age: 24
  • Location: all over the place, USA
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2022, 05:56:11 PM »
...high density suburbs (not sure how else to describe where we lived in Japan), and what I'd call semi-urban...

 Both felt like older "Main Street" type living, with nearly everything walkable, but still less crowded than actual city center.  Unfortunately, these seem to be the *most* expensive situations in most places.  We did save some by walking for many errands and only owning 1 car, but not enough to make up the COL differences, from even 10 miles away.  Again, for us it is worth it, and I do hope we end up in a similar place for retirement.

I'm really interested in what it will take to get high density suburbs in the US. I think a lot of the best American suburbs have (or once had) a "main street" environment, but it's usually just one nice, walkable part of town that's not accessible to anyone else without driving. Right now, American suburbs basically only have commercial zoning or more dense residential zoning right on the biggest, noisiest, stinkiest through-fares. Just up-zoning on some quieter streets off the highway through town could make such a big difference in making "main street" environments more abundant and affordable.

This was a great Strong Towns article from just a couple months ago on just the issue we are both lamenting: https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2021/11/3/our-self-imposed-scarcity-of-nice-places

GodlessCommie

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 836
  • Location: NoVA
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2022, 06:20:11 PM »
I'm really interested in what it will take to get high density suburbs in the US. I think a lot of the best American suburbs have (or once had) a "main street" environment, but it's usually just one nice, walkable part of town that's not accessible to anyone else without driving. Right now, American suburbs basically only have commercial zoning or more dense residential zoning right on the biggest, noisiest, stinkiest through-fares. Just up-zoning on some quieter streets off the highway through town could make such a big difference in making "main street" environments more abundant and affordable.

This is a very good observation. Around here (outer DC suburbs), there are nice older walkable areas. They are, obviously, expensive - although still HCOL and not VHCOL. But the new mixed used developments, while an improvement on the traditional suburb, have only small truly walkable pockets which are right next to highways and choke-full of parking garages. The needs of motorists (including being able to see the place from a highway) still come first. Drive to us, then walk around!

seattlecyclone

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6374
  • Age: 37
  • Location: Seattle, WA
    • My blog
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2022, 07:46:30 PM »
I'm really interested in what it will take to get high density suburbs in the US. I think a lot of the best American suburbs have (or once had) a "main street" environment, but it's usually just one nice, walkable part of town that's not accessible to anyone else without driving. Right now, American suburbs basically only have commercial zoning or more dense residential zoning right on the biggest, noisiest, stinkiest through-fares. Just up-zoning on some quieter streets off the highway through town could make such a big difference in making "main street" environments more abundant and affordable.

This is a very good observation. Around here (outer DC suburbs), there are nice older walkable areas. They are, obviously, expensive - although still HCOL and not VHCOL. But the new mixed used developments, while an improvement on the traditional suburb, have only small truly walkable pockets which are right next to highways and choke-full of parking garages. The needs of motorists (including being able to see the place from a highway) still come first. Drive to us, then walk around!

The customers have to get to the businesses somehow. A low density of nearby housing means there aren't many businesses that can survive on pedestrian traffic alone. You therefore might need a parking lot. The bigger the parking lot, the farther away the houses are, and the less foot traffic you're going to have to the businesses. Similarly, the residents need to get around the area. If you have a dense enough neighborhood a person might be able to accomplish most day-to-day tasks within a 15-minute walk of their home. In such areas a car (and parking space to store it) becomes an expensive luxury. Below that level of density and a car becomes more of a prosthetic: an appliance that a person absolutely needs in order gain a baseline level of function. Low density requires cars, and cars thwart efforts to increase density. It's a chicken and egg sort of thing.

Retrofitting the suburbs into true walkability requires more than just the occasional corporate developer plopping a giant modern shopping mall/apartment complex alongside an existing suburban stroad. You've seen this very well. More bottom-up changes will be required. Let people build denser dwellings. Everywhere. People sharing walls with their neighbors is not a nuisance that needs to be regulated into small areas of your city like you'd do with a toxic chemical plant. So much of existing suburbia has essentially no business activity within walking distance. Let people put small businesses near where the people are. Want to put a hair salon or coffee shop or convenience store on any old street corner? Go nuts! Don't require parking lots for these; a good portion of the clientele should be able to walk there, and for those who can't the existing street parking in the neighborhood will often be sufficient. Over time, cool neighborhood businesses will attract more neighborhood residents, which will attract more businesses, and a virtuous circle of density will ensue.

mspym

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5725
  • Location: Downunder
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2022, 10:55:46 PM »
This article, originally from 1973, covers a lot of the background and root causes, plus I just think it is an interesting read.

"In the final analysis, the car wastes more time than it saves and creates more distance than it overcomes." - André Gorz, "The Social Ideology of the Motorcar." https://unevenearth.org/2018/08/the-social-ideology-of-the-motorcar/

Missy B

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 432
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2022, 11:17:31 PM »
As an urbanite, most of what I don't like about being in an urban environment has to do with people from a suburban environment coming here in their cars. That's not a wish to eliminate them, but to control their rights, privileges and effects.
The second biggest thing is that my home base is awash in beggars and street-drug sellers and users. After reading "SanFransicko" I believe we are the authors of our own problem by making it so easy and comfortable to obtain drugs. We're a mecca for drug users across Canada. This is a disaster for our social and health services, and it really impacts quality of life in the core.

People leave the city for less dense areas because the city stresses them out. I think you can have density that isn't stressful, but you really have to address the stressors with good design, bylaws and enforcement around noise, and supports that actually work for people who need them.

Ron Scott

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 161
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2022, 03:44:00 AM »
Reminds me of the Fran Libowitz line when asked if she’d ever leave NY: “Sure, I’d be glad to get out of the city, but where can you go?”

I also LOLed at the response to the temporary Covid defections among some of the wealthy from the upper west side and elsewhere:
« Last Edit: January 11, 2022, 03:45:54 AM by Ron Scott »

jrhampt

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1543
  • Age: 44
  • Location: Connecticut
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2022, 05:38:33 AM »
I really think where I am living now is my ideal.  It's a small town on the shore with one main street - I can walk to my doctor, library, bank, yoga, post office, town hall, train station to NYC, a few happy hours, coffee shops, pastry/ice cream shops, grocery stores, book shop, masseuse, hair salons, liquor stores, several churches if I were so inclined, a small theater, and there's a nice 6 mile shoreline loop where I can run around basically the whole thing past several small beaches - 12 miles if I'd rather do a short bike ride and meander a bit more.  But because I'm in CT, it's not like I'm surrounded by nothing.  It's a whole bunch of small shoreline towns with similar main street setups kind of chained together.  I have almost everything I need within walking distance, but if I want something else I don't have to drive very far to get it - Costco, for instance, is a 15 minute drive and the ferry to several different islands with great biking is 20 minutes away.  Airport is an hour drive, which is about the farthest I need to go in any direction.

DaMa

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 820
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2022, 10:12:06 AM »
I've lived most of my life in metro Detroit.  Detroit was a food desert until recently and public transportation is not good.  They don't even put sidewalks into new suburban housing developments.

I lived in Phoenix for a year where I could walk to work, grocery store, doctor's office and library.  There was even a hospital a mile away.  I could take reliable public transportation to the airport.  I loved it.

Anon-E-Mouze

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 143
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2022, 10:19:58 AM »
I've been a city person since long before I lived in a city. I grew up in a small town in British Columbia, an environment that many people would view as their idea of paradise (back to nature and all), but it's totally not my thing. People used to stop me on the street when I was growing up and tell me to slow down, smile and relax. (I was tempted to say "Get the hell out of my way. I am going somewhere "fast".)

I moved to a large city (Toronto) as soon as I could, and since then I've had the good fortune to live in several other big cities in North America and Europe (NYC, London and Paris), and have also done some medium-term stays (e.g. 30 days or more) in some interesting medium-large cities like Barcelona, Madrid, Strasbourg, Guanajuato and Quito.

I think my favourite location of all was our neighbourhood in Paris. We lived just outside the city centre but still inside the ring road that delineates Paris from its suburbs, in the SW corner of the city (16th arrondissement). It was a residential neighbourhood that still had lots of shops, restaurants, outdoor markets, museums and parks (the Bois de Boulogne was a block away), with excellent metro and bus service. I could walk to work in 20 minutes. PS - It's a great location to stay in if you're ever visiting Paris, too.

I can't drive, so for most of my adult life I was dependent on public transit or walking to get around. (I can't see well enough to drive, or ride a bike in traffic.) I'm married to a driver now, so we've got more options, but I still prefer to have the independence that comes from living near good transit in a walkable neighbourhood. We compromised a bit when we bought our current house - it has great transit and the neighbourhood is walkable with access to the basics (recreation, parks, bank / drugstore / basic grocery store etc) but there is very little in the way of a thriving shop and restaurant scene. So we have to get in a car or Uber to do most of our shopping etc.

I do sometimes think about moving to a medium-sized, walkable city when we retire. But right now, housing prices are too high in most candidate cities in Ontario to make a move worthwhile.

GodlessCommie

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 836
  • Location: NoVA
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2022, 10:24:13 AM »
The customers have to get to the businesses somehow. A low density of nearby housing means there aren't many businesses that can survive on pedestrian traffic alone. You therefore might need a parking lot. The bigger the parking lot, the farther away the houses are, and the less foot traffic you're going to have to the businesses. Similarly, the residents need to get around the area. If you have a dense enough neighborhood a person might be able to accomplish most day-to-day tasks within a 15-minute walk of their home. In such areas a car (and parking space to store it) becomes an expensive luxury. Below that level of density and a car becomes more of a prosthetic: an appliance that a person absolutely needs in order gain a baseline level of function. Low density requires cars, and cars thwart efforts to increase density. It's a chicken and egg sort of thing.

Yes, thanks, I'm familiar with the concept :)

I'm not talking about retrofitting the existing suburbs, though. I'm talking about greenfield development on parcels that would have allowed several Cyclocrofts

Our Board of Supervisors would face literal pitchforks should they allow zoning of sufficient density. Local developers, having no resources or experience for this kind of construction, would gladly pay for said pitchforks.

Chris22

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3666
  • Location: Chicago NW Suburbs
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2022, 10:43:38 AM »
I think for me my current setup is ideal.  We live in an older suburb 25 miles outside of Chicago. My part of it is older houses on .15 acre lots (50x125’) so everything is SFH but very dense. I live 3 blocks north of the library which is the northern part of our downtown; from there it’s a handful of blocks to restaurants, shopping, grocery store, night life, farmer’s market in the summer, and the train that will take you to downtown Chicago in about 35 minutes. My house, while expensive at around $750k, would cost at least $1M more if it was in a downtown Chicago neighborhood, and $2M more if I had equivalent rated schools that I do here. We’ve talked about a condo in the city center after our kids go to college/move out, but honestly the pandemic has really turned us off that idea. Having plenty of space to do things at home, plus our own green space, has been invaluable during the pandemic and if we ever do it again I’d hate to be trapped in a high rise or something without our own outdoor space. 

PDXTabs

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3619
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Portland, OR, USA
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2022, 10:44:26 AM »
Our Board of Supervisors would face literal pitchforks should they allow zoning of sufficient density. Local developers, having no resources or experience for this kind of construction, would gladly pay for said pitchforks.

I agree with the first but not the second half of your statement. Everything that I've ever read about the property development business is that they seek to maximize profit by minimizing conflict with the permitting agencies. If today it was cheaper and faster to permit high density mixed use neighborhoods I think that the developers would fall right in line.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2022, 10:56:23 AM by PDXTabs »

seattlecyclone

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6374
  • Age: 37
  • Location: Seattle, WA
    • My blog
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #16 on: January 11, 2022, 10:50:09 AM »
I'm talking about greenfield development on parcels that would have allowed several Cyclocrofts.

The last thing we need in this country is greenfield development. We have more than enough developed land to house ten times our current population. The forests and farmland should stay as such for the sake of the environment.

Watchmaker

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1221
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #17 on: January 11, 2022, 11:00:00 AM »
I really think where I am living now is my ideal.  It's a small town on the shore with one main street - I can walk to my doctor, library, bank, yoga, post office, town hall, train station to NYC, a few happy hours, coffee shops, pastry/ice cream shops, grocery stores, book shop, masseuse, hair salons, liquor stores, several churches if I were so inclined, a small theater, and there's a nice 6 mile shoreline loop where I can run around basically the whole thing past several small beaches - 12 miles if I'd rather do a short bike ride and meander a bit more.  But because I'm in CT, it's not like I'm surrounded by nothing.  It's a whole bunch of small shoreline towns with similar main street setups kind of chained together.  I have almost everything I need within walking distance, but if I want something else I don't have to drive very far to get it - Costco, for instance, is a 15 minute drive and the ferry to several different islands with great biking is 20 minutes away.  Airport is an hour drive, which is about the farthest I need to go in any direction.

I think for me my current setup is ideal.  We live in an older suburb 25 miles outside of Chicago. My part of it is older houses on .15 acre lots (50x125’) so everything is SFH but very dense. I live 3 blocks north of the library which is the northern part of our downtown; from there it’s a handful of blocks to restaurants, shopping, grocery store, night life, farmer’s market in the summer, and the train that will take you to downtown Chicago in about 35 minutes. My house, while expensive at around $750k, would cost at least $1M more if it was in a downtown Chicago neighborhood, and $2M more if I had equivalent rated schools that I do here. We’ve talked about a condo in the city center after our kids go to college/move out, but honestly the pandemic has really turned us off that idea. Having plenty of space to do things at home, plus our own green space, has been invaluable during the pandemic and if we ever do it again I’d hate to be trapped in a high rise or something without our own outdoor space. 

These both sound similar to where I live, with one important difference. The small town I'm in is more isolated then either of these places and we do no have a rail link to anywhere. I love where I live, but public transport to a larger city would make it just about perfect. On the plus side, I bought my ideal house here for less than $250k. 

yachi

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 925
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2022, 11:14:25 AM »
...well-designed cities are so scarce in North America that they all become obscenely expensive, so become condemned as "VHCOL" cities. There seems to be a prevailing sentiment here that only stupid sheep would live in these places unless they were there for extremely high-paid work that they couldn't get elsewhere, because obviously they could save more money if they lived and worked elsewhere.

Hey, hey, I've got equal disdain for lots of VHCOL places.  Yeah, I'm looking askance at you Bay Area.  But I feel what you're saying, and I think it's compatible with the environmental piece of mustachianism.  I think cities are better for the environment vs spread out development.  If it was up to me, I'd probably live in a more urban place than we do, but my SO likes having space and easy parking.  We've hit a decent balance I think as I learned her family thinks our area is too built-up.  But we like having all our groceries and restaurant options within a 5 to 15 minute drive.

GodlessCommie

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 836
  • Location: NoVA
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2022, 11:22:20 AM »
The last thing we need in this country is greenfield development. We have more than enough developed land to house ten times our current population. The forests and farmland should stay as such for the sake of the environment.

I'm not arguing - but *if* it is happening, best we build smart. Instead, we build as many parking garages as multi-family buildings, and limit areas where you could walk for a reason to a couple of blocks (half of buildings in which are, again, garages).

caleb

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 594
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #20 on: January 11, 2022, 12:01:09 PM »
The system reinforced itself.

Yeah, it's almost as if when you socialize the costs of low density (highway construction, pollution) and privatize the benefits (more space, exclusive schools), lots of people will take the hint.

If the carrot also needs a stick, we'll concentrate social dysfunction (housing instability, addiction, and the resultant crime) in walkable locations and localize the costs of dealing with it.

Between the carrots and sticks, I get how lots of people eventually saddle up for the exurban commute.

jrhampt

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1543
  • Age: 44
  • Location: Connecticut
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #21 on: January 12, 2022, 07:29:40 AM »
I really think where I am living now is my ideal.  It's a small town on the shore with one main street - I can walk to my doctor, library, bank, yoga, post office, town hall, train station to NYC, a few happy hours, coffee shops, pastry/ice cream shops, grocery stores, book shop, masseuse, hair salons, liquor stores, several churches if I were so inclined, a small theater, and there's a nice 6 mile shoreline loop where I can run around basically the whole thing past several small beaches - 12 miles if I'd rather do a short bike ride and meander a bit more.  But because I'm in CT, it's not like I'm surrounded by nothing.  It's a whole bunch of small shoreline towns with similar main street setups kind of chained together.  I have almost everything I need within walking distance, but if I want something else I don't have to drive very far to get it - Costco, for instance, is a 15 minute drive and the ferry to several different islands with great biking is 20 minutes away.  Airport is an hour drive, which is about the farthest I need to go in any direction.

I think for me my current setup is ideal.  We live in an older suburb 25 miles outside of Chicago. My part of it is older houses on .15 acre lots (50x125’) so everything is SFH but very dense. I live 3 blocks north of the library which is the northern part of our downtown; from there it’s a handful of blocks to restaurants, shopping, grocery store, night life, farmer’s market in the summer, and the train that will take you to downtown Chicago in about 35 minutes. My house, while expensive at around $750k, would cost at least $1M more if it was in a downtown Chicago neighborhood, and $2M more if I had equivalent rated schools that I do here. We’ve talked about a condo in the city center after our kids go to college/move out, but honestly the pandemic has really turned us off that idea. Having plenty of space to do things at home, plus our own green space, has been invaluable during the pandemic and if we ever do it again I’d hate to be trapped in a high rise or something without our own outdoor space. 

These both sound similar to where I live, with one important difference. The small town I'm in is more isolated then either of these places and we do no have a rail link to anywhere. I love where I live, but public transport to a larger city would make it just about perfect. On the plus side, I bought my ideal house here for less than $250k.

That is the downside of ideal location...housing cost.  We hacked it by getting a tiny cottage for 150k as a foreclosure a few years ago before all the NYC pandemic refugees poured in and jacked up housing costs, but it's a 1 bedroom/1 bathroom 600 sq ft place, and I'd prefer an extra bedroom and half bath, some more closet space - maybe 1000 sq ft.  I would have to pay at least 500-600k right now for something that size and it would still need a lot of work.  But my running route is so gorgeous that I spend a lot of my time outdoors and just live with the smaller house.

Ron Scott

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 161
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #22 on: January 12, 2022, 08:01:52 AM »

That is the downside of ideal location...housing cost.  We hacked it by getting a tiny cottage for 150k as a foreclosure a few years ago before all the NYC pandemic refugees poured in and jacked up housing costs, but it's a 1 bedroom/1 bathroom 600 sq ft place, and I'd prefer an extra bedroom and half bath, some more closet space - maybe 1000 sq ft.  I would have to pay at least 500-600k right now for something that size

I doubt the cost of housing in desirable areas will see a meaningful decline. Perhaps the opposite. If we transition to a work-from-home/in-office hybrid, the suburbs and exurbs will become even more desirable…and more expensive.

The only solution I see for affordability is for lower- and middle-income wages to rise and a higher net worth requirement for anyone contemplating retirement who might want to trade up someday.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2022, 08:08:22 AM by Ron Scott »

ChpBstrd

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3689
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #23 on: January 12, 2022, 08:37:38 AM »
The system reinforced itself.

Yeah, it's almost as if when you socialize the costs of low density (highway construction, pollution) and privatize the benefits (more space, exclusive schools), lots of people will take the hint.

If the carrot also needs a stick, we'll concentrate social dysfunction (housing instability, addiction, and the resultant crime) in walkable locations and localize the costs of dealing with it.

Between the carrots and sticks, I get how lots of people eventually saddle up for the exurban commute.

Glad you mention social dysfunction as a cause for people spreading out into low density cities. Just ask a resident of a suburban sprawl area why they don't live in the city core, and they'll explain how the crime, beggars, addicts, etc. make it an unpleasant place for them and their kids. Gated suburban/exurban communities are telling us that people feel insecure.

It seems lots of people have a vision for what a functional high density city would look like, but this vision cannot be sold because the problem is other people's behavior. I.e. if you build it, the addicts will still be there hassling people on every street corner, the gangs that sell them drugs will still be committing acts of violence, etc. The drug trade, being underground, is more efficient in dense areas.

Our inability to address the problem of substance abuse and addiction is the root cause of sprawl, car culture, and architectural dysfunction. HCOL and VHCOL places with high urban density "work" to the extent that economic segregation causes a steady outflow of addicts to less expensive places. I.e. if you are a heroin addict, paying $3k/mo in rent and holding down a job that can cover that amount is that much harder. You'll eventually end up in a cheaper place, no less addicted. This cheaper place might be a "ghetto" in a less-expensive city, which only discourages people from investing in such cities. Thus, the urban life in SanFrancisco or Boston is prohibitively expensive, and in places like Tulsa, OK, Memphis, TN, Montgomery, AL, Kansas City, MO, Cincinnati, OH etc. you can buy a livable house for under $100k. Guess where the addicts are going, and guess which cities are becoming hollowed out and sprawling.

If addiction treatment was offered to everyone on the taxpayer's dime, addicts and the drug trade would become less common. Taxpayers then might be spared a lot of emergency medial bills, road construction, commute costs, gated community HOAs, law enforcement, utility infrastructure costs, etc. and in addition there would be more taxpayers to carry this burden. Unfortunately, the American way of thinking would see this as somehow rewarding their behavior. We'd rather pay the enormous expenses we're paying and live with dystopian hour long commutes than having a nationwide rehab program. If we only got half the addicts off the streets, LCOL cities would become plausible places again.

Watchmaker

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1221
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #24 on: January 12, 2022, 09:56:53 AM »
That is the downside of ideal location...housing cost.  We hacked it by getting a tiny cottage for 150k as a foreclosure a few years ago before all the NYC pandemic refugees poured in and jacked up housing costs, but it's a 1 bedroom/1 bathroom 600 sq ft place, and I'd prefer an extra bedroom and half bath, some more closet space - maybe 1000 sq ft.  I would have to pay at least 500-600k right now for something that size and it would still need a lot of work.  But my running route is so gorgeous that I spend a lot of my time outdoors and just live with the smaller house.

That Strong Towns article linked above argues that housing costs are only high for desirable neighborhoods (and cities) because we build so few good neighborhoods (and cities). Rather than the seemingly common reaction of disdaining those neighborhoods as "for the elite", maybe we should try to build a whole hell of a lot more of them.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2022, 11:55:49 AM by Watchmaker »

Villanelle

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4546
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #25 on: January 12, 2022, 10:07:37 AM »
That is the downside of ideal location...housing cost.  We hacked it by getting a tiny cottage for 150k as a foreclosure a few years ago before all the NYC pandemic refugees poured in and jacked up housing costs, but it's a 1 bedroom/1 bathroom 600 sq ft place, and I'd prefer an extra bedroom and half bath, some more closet space - maybe 1000 sq ft.  I would have to pay at least 500-600k right now for something that size and it would still need a lot of work.  But my running route is so gorgeous that I spend a lot of my time outdoors and just live with the smaller house.

That Strong Towns article linked above argues that housing costs are only high for desirable neighborhoods (and cities) because we build so few good neighborhoods (and cities). Rather than the seeming common reaction of disdaining those neighborhoods as "for the elite", maybe we should try to build a whole hell of a lot more of them.

I recall reading (I think it started in a post on this forum, and then I went down a bit of a rabbit hole on it) about some country that doesn't centralize the federal operations.  They spread them out.  So instead of mashing everything into DC, the Department of Transportation might be in Omaha and the the Federal Reserve in Nashville, HUD in Detroit, etc.  I think shift to that model, at least partially, would help build up at least a handful of areas into more desirable places, because you would bring a lot of dense jobs, many of which are very well paying and quite stable. 

You wouldn't want to move those things to cities that are already huge, but you probably need them in places where there is at least some existing infastructure.  Plopping them in the middle of miles of untouched land in Nebraska doesn't seem ideal to me. But you could bring some 2nd or 3rd tier cities up to 1st tier cities (in terms of income, and the resulting growth in opportunities, amenities, and options). Of course, even the suggestion of this would cause politicians to go into an terrible frenzy and the chance of things ending up in places that makes sense instead of in the home states of committee members is next to zero, but if we could pull it off, I think it would go a long way toward making more areas into desirable places to live.

GodlessCommie

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 836
  • Location: NoVA
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #26 on: January 12, 2022, 10:10:58 AM »
That Strong Towns article linked above argues that housing costs are only high for desirable neighborhoods (and cities) because we build so few good neighborhoods (and cities). Rather than the seeming common reaction of disdaining those neighborhoods as "for the elite", maybe we should try to build a whole hell of a lot more of them.

This is one of  the idiosyncrasies of the American left - it's choke full of people who would love to live in a good dense neighborhood, but it more often than not uses it's political power to prevent building these neighborhoods.

At the end of the day, the only way to meet demand is with supply, and the demand is clearly there.

GodlessCommie

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 836
  • Location: NoVA
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #27 on: January 12, 2022, 10:17:34 AM »
I recall reading (I think it started in a post on this forum, and then I went down a bit of a rabbit hole on it) about some country that doesn't centralize the federal operations.  They spread them out.  So instead of mashing everything into DC, the Department of Transportation might be in Omaha and the the Federal Reserve in Nashville, HUD in Detroit, etc.  I think shift to that model, at least partially, would help build up at least a handful of areas into more desirable places, because you would bring a lot of dense jobs, many of which are very well paying and quite stable. 

US already does that - although we should do more of it. CDC headquarters, for example, are in Atlanta. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service recently moved to Kansas City. Unsurprisingly, Republican Senators push really hard for agencies to be moved to their states.

wageslave23

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 975
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #28 on: January 12, 2022, 11:44:22 AM »
Does having kids influence your preferences for suburban vs urban living?  I'm not a big city fan either way, I just don't like people that much.  However, I would even more prefer to live in a suburb if I had kids.  I would want them to be able to go play in the backyard or ride their bike in the driveway multiple times a day whenever they felt like it as opposed to having to formally go to a park with them.

YttriumNitrate

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1342
  • Location: Northwest Indiana
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #29 on: January 12, 2022, 11:54:48 AM »
I recall reading (I think it started in a post on this forum, and then I went down a bit of a rabbit hole on it) about some country that doesn't centralize the federal operations.  They spread them out.  So instead of mashing everything into DC, the Department of Transportation might be in Omaha and the the Federal Reserve in Nashville, HUD in Detroit, etc.  I think shift to that model, at least partially, would help build up at least a handful of areas into more desirable places, because you would bring a lot of dense jobs, many of which are very well paying and quite stable. 
You're probably thinking about Switzerland. They don't have a capital city (although Bern is the most capital-like).

seattlecyclone

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6374
  • Age: 37
  • Location: Seattle, WA
    • My blog
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #30 on: January 12, 2022, 12:03:34 PM »
That is the downside of ideal location...housing cost.  We hacked it by getting a tiny cottage for 150k as a foreclosure a few years ago before all the NYC pandemic refugees poured in and jacked up housing costs, but it's a 1 bedroom/1 bathroom 600 sq ft place, and I'd prefer an extra bedroom and half bath, some more closet space - maybe 1000 sq ft.  I would have to pay at least 500-600k right now for something that size and it would still need a lot of work.  But my running route is so gorgeous that I spend a lot of my time outdoors and just live with the smaller house.

That Strong Towns article linked above argues that housing costs are only high for desirable neighborhoods (and cities) because we build so few good neighborhoods (and cities). Rather than the seeming common reaction of disdaining those neighborhoods as "for the elite", maybe we should try to build a whole hell of a lot more of them.

Indeed! High housing costs are largely about the land. Building materials don't cost a whole lot more in San Francisco than Nebraska, labor is more expensive to be sure, but what makes the biggest difference is simply the land.

I live in a desirable, walkable neighborhood. Even though my home is quite spacious the tax assessor believes the value of my property lies more in the land than in the house itself. And yet, local zoning prohibits me from splitting up the land into smaller, more affordable chunks. The most I could do at this moment is build a small one-bedroom cottage in the back yard. Simply selling the yard and letting someone build a full-sized house in the empty chunk has been banned for the better part of a century. We have a situation where adding additional housing to existing walkable neighborhoods is tightly restricted, and so is adding more walkability to existing non-walkable neighborhoods. It's madness.

Does having kids influence your preferences for suburban vs urban living?  I'm not a big city fan either way, I just don't like people that much.  However, I would even more prefer to live in a suburb if I had kids.  I would want them to be able to go play in the backyard or ride their bike in the driveway multiple times a day whenever they felt like it as opposed to having to formally go to a park with them.

I'm a parent. There are trade-offs. We have a small yard where the kids play sometimes, but they're still not old enough that we can just send them out unsupervised. If they need adult supervision anyway, might as well spend some of that time walking the 15 minutes to a park with better play equipment than we'd ever even dream about buying for our own property. I think in a number of years (late elementary through high school years), living in a location with good walkability and transit will become a real benefit. In a car-oriented suburb if your kid is to do pretty much anything outside the home they need a parental chauffeur. I grew up in such a place. In nice weather, during daylight hours, it was possible for me to bike to the library or the school or a few other places, but it took at least half an hour each way and this was less of a safe option at night or in winter. There was no transit service to speak of. It would have been incredibly liberating as a middle schooler to be able to get myself places rather than rely on a parent for everything, and the parent would appreciate not needing to go along every time as well.

GodlessCommie

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 836
  • Location: NoVA
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #31 on: January 12, 2022, 12:08:54 PM »
Does having kids influence your preferences for suburban vs urban living?  I'm not a big city fan either way, I just don't like people that much.  However, I would even more prefer to live in a suburb if I had kids.  I would want them to be able to go play in the backyard or ride their bike in the driveway multiple times a day whenever they felt like it as opposed to having to formally go to a park with them.

Most of my childhood went in urban environment, although, admittedly, not in the US. I had orders of magnitude more freedom and opportunities to entertain myself outside of home, unsupervised, than US suburban kids have today.

I cannot discount American parents' preference for suburbs completely, there must be some reason for that. And we raised our kids in suburbs, so there's that. But whatever it is that pushes American parents out of cities, it is not a property of urban environment in and of itself, it's a property of American urban environment.

jrhampt

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1543
  • Age: 44
  • Location: Connecticut
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #32 on: January 12, 2022, 12:28:25 PM »
The thing is that even though living in a walkable town is expensive in terms of housing costs (not Mustachian), it is offset to a certain extent by being able to walk almost everywhere (Mustachian), and I know I feel a lot healthier and walk a lot more every day since I moved to this town.  I feel like we cheated by getting a tiny house, and there's a limited stock of those, but we sort of get to have our cake and eat it too this way.  My town has an interesting mix of tiny beach cottages and massive summer homes.  So you have the uber rich seasonal residents with their mega yachts and the places that cater to them which are priced accordingly, but also more working class people in small homes and even some apartments buildings/condos that are more reasonably priced.

Log

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 48
  • Age: 24
  • Location: all over the place, USA
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #33 on: January 14, 2022, 12:48:39 PM »
Does having kids influence your preferences for suburban vs urban living?  I'm not a big city fan either way, I just don't like people that much.  However, I would even more prefer to live in a suburb if I had kids.  I would want them to be able to go play in the backyard or ride their bike in the driveway multiple times a day whenever they felt like it as opposed to having to formally go to a park with them.

The first Youtube link in my original post is directly about this topic!

I initially wrote a much longer response but it seems silly for me try to speak about this when I obviously have no experience with kids, so I'll let him do the talking - highly recommend that video on why cities are great places to raise kids (with some caveats re: North America vs EU).

On the other hand, I do have experience being a kid growing up in suburbia, and the inability to get anywhere I wanted to go without someone to drive me was a severe negative that is hard to over-state. The same things that make it possible to live car-free in dense urban areas also make it way more fun and interesting to be a person who's too young to drive.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2022, 12:52:16 PM by Log »

ChpBstrd

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3689
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #34 on: January 14, 2022, 03:17:56 PM »
The thing is that even though living in a walkable town is expensive in terms of housing costs (not Mustachian), it is offset to a certain extent by being able to walk almost everywhere (Mustachian), and I know I feel a lot healthier and walk a lot more every day since I moved to this town. 

If you see something priced cheaply on eBay, there's a good chance that the shipping cost is high. We should look at the cheap real estate available in suburbia / exurbia as having a high shipping cost too, because you'll have to ship yourself extreme distances to go to work, meet up with others, or buy something from the store. The costs of car usage is this shipping bill. I would like to see an economist build an equation to estimate the fair market value of housing at greater and greater distances. It wouldn't surprise me to see some economic inefficiencies, because the cost of transportation is a lot less visible than house prices and square footage.


Glenstache

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3113
  • Location: Upper left corner
  • Target FI date: ASAP
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #35 on: January 14, 2022, 05:54:44 PM »
Posting mostly to follow the conversation. A podcast I was listening to a couple of weeks pointed out that Paris is one of the densest cities around, but does not feel dense at the neighborhood level because of how the neighborhoods are constructed. A study I came across on the concept is translated, but makes the point that streets with similar style and shape/size buildings feel less dense than less homogeneous 'hoods. Similarly, having the functions you need nearby (food, cafe, etc) helps. I thought it was pretty interesting, and a good layer to put over the cost discussion.
https://www.smartcitiesdive.com/ex/sustainablecitiescollective/real-density-versus-experienced-density-paris-le-de-france-france/249701/

wageslave23

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 975
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #36 on: January 14, 2022, 09:18:49 PM »
Does having kids influence your preferences for suburban vs urban living?  I'm not a big city fan either way, I just don't like people that much.  However, I would even more prefer to live in a suburb if I had kids.  I would want them to be able to go play in the backyard or ride their bike in the driveway multiple times a day whenever they felt like it as opposed to having to formally go to a park with them.

The first Youtube link in my original post is directly about this topic!

I initially wrote a much longer response but it seems silly for me try to speak about this when I obviously have no experience with kids, so I'll let him do the talking - highly recommend that video on why cities are great places to raise kids (with some caveats re: North America vs EU).

On the other hand, I do have experience being a kid growing up in suburbia, and the inability to get anywhere I wanted to go without someone to drive me was a severe negative that is hard to over-state. The same things that make it possible to live car-free in dense urban areas also make it way more fun and interesting to be a person who's too young to drive.

I watched the video.  That makes sense. I thought we were only talking about US cities. I haven't been to one yet that I would let a less than 15 yr old wander around in by themselves. 

GodlessCommie

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 836
  • Location: NoVA
Re: Urbanism and Mustachianism
« Reply #37 on: January 15, 2022, 11:05:14 AM »
If you see something priced cheaply on eBay, there's a good chance that the shipping cost is high. We should look at the cheap real estate available in suburbia / exurbia as having a high shipping cost too, because you'll have to ship yourself extreme distances to go to work, meet up with others, or buy something from the store. The costs of car usage is this shipping bill. I would like to see an economist build an equation to estimate the fair market value of housing at greater and greater distances. It wouldn't surprise me to see some economic inefficiencies, because the cost of transportation is a lot less visible than house prices and square footage.

This is true, and there are even some numbers under true Cost of Commuting. It becomes much less relevant if you WFH or are already FIREd, though. It then basically becomes a quality of life issue, and if the increase in quality of life is worth the extra $$. My hunch is that for people who don't regularly exercise, the health benefits of being in an environment that encourages (or even requires) walking will pay for themselves. If you exercise regularly regardless, there may be no financial benefit.

To illustrate: one company I worked for did this walking challenge. It was a startup full of highly competitive people, most of whom couldn't pass on a chance to win at anything and really worked to get the step count up.

Our European office won just by living its regular life.