There's a fascinating debate raging in the comments of Douglas Rushkoff's blog--specifically, on the entry in which he describes being mugged on his doorstep on Christmas Eve, and discusses the fact that he and his wife are seriously considering moving their family out of New York City.
This paragraph in one of his comments late in the thread caught my eye:
I don't mean to be confrontational, but a three-bedroom apartment is easily 1.5 million here. A small house is 1.8 - and that's not even in the so-called 'prime' 321 area. If we were to send our kid to private instead of public (depending on which non Park Slope area we ended up in) that would be an additional 20,000+ per year. Then we have to save for college, too?
When people on the west coast ask me why I came back to Rochester rather than staying in Seattle after my sabbatical ended, I tell them about my house.
We live in a 1800 square foot four-bedroom Colonial, built in the late 1950s. It's got a two-car garage, fireplace in the family room, a swimming pool (aboveground) in the spacious backyard, central air, and a full basement in which we've got storage, a home gym, and laundry. No structural problems of any kind. Is it fancy? No. Is it solid, comfortable, and big enough for the five of us and our packrat habits? Yes. We know all of our neighbors, there are sidewalks for the kids to ride and walk on, we're ten minutes (even in snow) by car from my office, and our local public schools are excellent. My kids can ride their bikes to the pond in our subdivision and build forts in the woods with their friends.
We refinanced this year, so we had to get the house appraised. Its current value? $145,000. No, that's not a typo. There are no missing zeros or misplaced decimal points.
This means we can live very comfortably on my academic salary, and Gerald can be there for the boys. He volunteers at their schools, and is here when they get off the bus every day. That's a luxury that not many families I know in high-rent areas can afford, and it's something I'm grateful for daily.
Do I hate that I'm at least two flights away from any conference destination (except NYC)? Sure. Are there times, when I'm scraping snow and ice off my car in the RIT parking lot, that I wish I lived in a milder climate? Of course. But we have a connection to community here that matters--and I'm not in any hurry to trade that for a mortgage that's an order of magnitude higher than what I'm paying now!
(Oh...and that saving for college thing? The boys get a full free ride at RIT; that's one of my employee benefits. If they'd prefer to go someplace like USC or Rose-Hulman or Drexel or Bennington--well, those and more are on the list of schools participating in a the tuition exchange program that RIT's a part of.)