in praise of rochester: cost of living edition


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.)


Cost of living is another big plus in northern mining town where I'm on faculty at the local U. Housing is dirt cheap compare to the bigger cities down south and that makes a big difference in the long term.

That said, I wish our institution participated in something like the tuition exchange. No place in Canada seems to do so and that's a shame.

Elizabeth, I am not use to communicating this way. Only do e-mail. I found mamamusings when I searched "Lawley, AL." I did an MA at the University of Montevallo near Lawley, and found a little house to rent in Lawley while going to school there. That was the early 90's.

Now I am wanting to return to set up a writer's/artist's retreat center and an eco-friendly co-housing village that is entirely sustainable as near as possible to Montevallo, where there already exists a strong writer's community. Land is going fast on the east side of Lawley towards Interstate 65. Nearby Shelby county is one of the fastest growing in the nation, and land anywhere in Shelby County is unapproachable with my budget. Trees are just being wiped out overnight and replaced with very close-together houses with no planning for community, transportation or sustainability. So I am having to look for land as far away as Lawley to find reasonable prices.

Would you ask your family in Alabama to be on the lookout for 50 to 100 or so acres that is drivable to Montevallo? Also encourage people there to put their land in some sort of conservation landtrusts to keep the monster developments from scooping up all the trees. Around Montevallo we are trying to organize a group to help people with the difficult task of finding the best landtrust for their needs and helping them through the process.

I enjoyed reading you blog, site, whatever it is called. I am a writer and feel that I already sit too much, so I don't enjoy much online anything. I do, however, get misdirected sometimes and find that I can't resist communicating where I find these local, even if loose, connections.


I completely agree. I moved back to Rochester from Boston several years ago, and couldn't be happier. I bought a three family house for about $130k, and the tenant's rent covers my mortgage, insurance and taxes with $400 to spare each month. I was killing myself with work, just to keep the rent paid and cover the $300+ per month it cost to park my car at One Beacon, where I worked.

Now I can take a Jet Blue flight to Boston for less than $100 if I need a taste of the big city.

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This page contains a single entry published on January 3, 2007 7:08 PM.

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