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Find a new city (austinkleon.com)
233 points by mantesso on Aug 5, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 188 comments



This jumped out at me:

> “I’m trans, so I need to live somewhere progressive so I feel safe day-to-day and don’t feel like I’m going to get beat up for using the wrong restroom.”

This is a pretty damn good reason to live somewhere like Seattle or Boston, and a pretty damn good reason not to live somewhere like (edit:) North Carolina or Tennessee or Georgia. The reality is that many of us are limited by not wanting to live in a city or state that basically wants us dead. The fact that tech companies tend to be clustered around progressive, blue areas is a major advantage.

It's easy to say "just move to the middle of nowhere!" if you're privileged enough to not worry about these things. But some of us kind of want to keep our asses safe and, honestly, alive.


Have you actually spent time in Raleigh or Atlanta? The idea that trans people are getting murdered in the street is just not correct.

I'm gay and I've spent a lot of fun nights in Boise, Idaho because a gay friend of mine lives there with her wife. We always have a blast. She has a great career in Boise and I don't think she's experienced more homophobia there than when she lived in New York City. (I know she had at least one bad experience in NYC as she was cat-called once right before I met her and her then girlfriend.)

I think a lot of coastal elites have no idea what they're talking about when they speak about the extreme danger of being different in middle-America.


> I think a lot of coastal elites have no idea what they're talking about when they speak about the extreme danger of being different in middle-America.

Here's a counterargument (counter-anecdote, really): I'm different in other ways (foreigner), I found living in middle-America a nightmarish experience of prejudice and outright hate. Being cat-called once is child's play compared to living in the mid-west while foreign.


Agreed.

One can be gay (and of the white majority) and not broadcast it, whereas when you're not-white, you're foreign. You can speak with a flawless accent, play varsity baseball, drink Bud at the bar and cheer for the home team, but in the eyes of the bigoted, you still aren't anything beyond your skin color.

This is not to discredit what other discriminated people have to undergo, but as someone who is not white, there's an extra burden to living in middle-America.


Have you lived in middle america?


Grew up Illinois. Got into one fight middle and one in high school because people taunted me over my race (I'm Chinese).

And while roadtripping throughout the Midwest, sometimes people would toss racial epithets at you in the most indirect way; e.g. Just a mutter as they pass you. The only time I felt directly threatened was while stopping for gas in rural Indiana, and again that was with a group of teenagers who probably had nothing better to do.

Even with all this, I don't regret my upbringing in the Midwest. It's fostered an understanding of the inequalities that exist in America. And as I get to the age of potentially having kids, I wonder if I want to move back to let them experience this as well.


Normal looking, upper middle class Christian white man here from Fort Wayne, IN who's lived in 4 major cities Boston, Philadelphia, WAsh DC, and St. Louis and a mix of others Augusta, GA, Princeton, NJ, Ann Arbor, MI.

City vs. not is the key distinction. Racists/sexists/etc. exist in equal numbers in less populated parts of every state. Interestingly, the immigrants who primarily live in cities tend to be similarly racist/sexist as the Americans in less populated parts. My point is to challenge the idea that middle america is relatively bad.


We can clearly see that's your point, but it's a mystery to me why you think your experience outweighs that of the parent (though the nonsequitor about immigrants offers a depressing clue).


Did I say my point was better than the parent? I didn't. They're point is equally valid. I was simply arguing my case.

As for the "non sequitur", it was exactly NOT a non-sequitur. What I meant is to point out an unfortunate irony thats it's human nature to discrimate. The people in middle america were once immigrants. The current immigrants in cities in my wide variety of experiences have surprised me with their discriminatory tendencies. I've been at several well known universities so it's not an education thing either.


> My point is to challenge the idea that middle america is relatively bad.

Gotcha. I'm glad you're challenging me because it's making me refine my thoughts.

Middle America often denotes the Midwest, but this is the wrong connotation and I shouldn't have used it.

Middle America is any region in America where there's a stagnation of thought due to lack of new people and new ideas. Urban or rural, Midwest or coastal. And next time, I'll use the term "homogenous towns" to avoid this ambiguity over geography.

Thank you.


> I think a lot of coastal elites have no idea what they're talking about when they speak about the extreme danger of being different in middle-America.

I suspect you are undervaluing the impact a region's law and culture can have. Being murdered is not the only danger of being trans in America.

LGBTQ individuals are the single largest target for hate crime. [1] Trans women, in particular, seem to draw both violent crime, hate speech, and legislation that makes their lives considerably more difficult.

Trans individuals more frequently suffer secondary health impacts simply for fear of using public restrooms. They may not use a restroom when they need to, or deliberately dehydrate themselves to avoid having to use a public restroom.

Even without violence, being the target of aggressive/hateful language when in public is not something anyone should have to deal with. It's an emotional burden that can lead to other emotional and physical symptoms of anxiety and depression.

When legislation like NC's HB2 goes on the books, it can make trans people targets. (See instances where people stood outside public restrooms 'checking' for trans individuals, or in Washington state, where the I-1515's initiative chairmen encouraged men to follow women into the restrooms to deliberately make them uncomfortable so they'd sign the initiative.)

The danger is definitely there, across many axes. Some of the dangers are subtle, and may not be obvious on casual inspection, but it definitely feels like there's extreme danger even in communities as liberal as Seattle -- let alone in areas where there's less tolerance.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/06/16/us/hate-crimes...


This is all oriented around metropolitan areas, which are often much more liberal than the surrounding areas. I'm not sure this speaks the region as a whole.

However, you're also understating the threat of violence against trans people[1]. My best friend in the world had their world turned upside down after a murder in Philly[2]—a city with a strong queer community, one of the strongest I've ever seen. I don't think you're truly safe anywhere at the moment as a trans person.

Finally, there's this super depressing article on wikipedia about trans murders specifically: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_unlawfully_killed_tran...

[1]: http://www.thetaskforce.org/static_html/downloads/reports/re... (You really have to dig, but I recommend eyeballing the entire report to get a full idea to the extent to which trans people are subject to discrimination, harassment, and assault).

[2]: http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Transgender-Rally-...


The difference is that North Carolina has HB2 and Massachusetts does not. Cities are great and all, but don't forget that state and federal laws take precedent over city ordinances.


Building on this, see, for example: http://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/non_discrimination_laws

(Note the states with little warning triangles, indicating that the state has passed legislation that prevents cities or other municipalities from enacting their own non-discrimination rules.)


For others like me who were not aware of HB2: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/ar...


HB2 is ridiculousness.

Everyone I know that lives in NC is upset about it. The only bright side is that it hasn't been and can't be enforced.

Many don't know that HB2 also originally included provisions that took rights away from workers to sue for discrimination. Months after, they took that part out, but left the rest of HB2 intact. They could have just killed it, but the legislature was just too fucking stupid.

In 2010, NC got the first Republican majority in their state legislature since 1900. They created HB2 in response to something completely innocuous, went completely off the rails, and have been in no way actually representing NC's citizens.

Despite the NC Republicans Gerrymandering several years ago, they should be soundly defeated in all elections in the near future. It just won't be soon enough.


As a counter anecdote, I'm from the Midwest and one of the biggest boons about moving from Metro Detroit to the Bay Area is that I don't get harassed in the street for being visibly gender non-conforming anymore. I very much agree with GP, being able to live in a liberal city is one of the biggest bonuses of tech being huge in the Bay Area.

There's socially liberal islands in my home state, like Ann Arbor, Ferndale, and to a lesser extent Grand Rapids, but get too far outside of those towns and you'll have people asking you to leave their store because you're holding hands with your same-sex significant other, yelling slurs at you out of their car windows, telling you unprompted that they're going to pray for your soul, etc. I have a friend that was exorcised and then disowned when he came out, my high school principle gave me a talk about how me being out was reflecting negatively on the school and I needed to change my wicked ways, etc. It's a huge load off my mind to be somewhere where it's a non-issue.


Anecdotal: a friend of a friend, of Middle Eastern origin, had a gun shown to him at a gas station in some town in Texas, followed by "you do not belong here."

As for myself, I'm a Latino immigrant and as much as I'd like to know a lot of America, there are places I'm just afraid to travel to.


In Texas a gun is just a conversation starter.


I can't say for sure about Trans issues locale to locale, however as a Boston/Seattle person I was horrified at the pervasive loud and very publicly accepted levels of racism and homophobia in most of the South and parts of the Mid-West.


Compared to Boston?


I'm a white person from the pacific northwest, and Charleston SC is just ridiculous. It's extremely racist (you would not believe the things that the local white population say when there's no minorities around), xenophobic and reliably voted for Strom Thurmond and Lindsey Graham, two of the most race-baiting bible-thumping red state panderers on earth.

If you're going to move to a "tier 2" / "tier 3" size city, stay out of the bible belt. Unless you're into that sort of thing.


I'd argue that white people in the Pacific Northwest are thinking much of those same things - in the South they just say them out loud.

Think about it, how racially integrated is the Seattle (or Portland) metro exactly?


> I think a lot of coastal elites have no idea what they're talking about when they speak about the extreme danger of being different in middle-America.

Pretty much everyone in this thread takes issue with that statement, but I've got a question that hasn't been raised yet: what exactly does "elites" mean in this context?


I agree. I lived in Cambridge, MA for 12 years. Now I live in St. Louis, Mo. It's better here in many ways. Most people I encountered in the east coast have no understanding of how it can be not bad in a place like St. Louis, let alone better by measures they care about.


Wait someone lived in NYC and was cat-called only ONCE? Most women are cat-called or otherwise street harassed in NYC on a regular basis. I base this on talking to my friends who live in NYC and my experiences visiting.


I believe you'll find that north carolina is on the coast.


I believe you'll find that north carolina isn't considered "elite" by anyone but alabamians


For me it's not only about being safe. I don't have to worry too much about that sort of thing because I blend in most places in my country. But I've lived where people had different values than me and it just gets exhausting. Constantly being bombarded with messages you fundamentally disagree with 24/7. Billboards; local TV; newpapers/web sites; overhearing conversations of the people around you; having odd things said to you; day in and day out. I don't mind that other people have different values than me. But I do mind having to be constantly surrounded by it and having nowhere to go to get away from it.

I can't imagine what it's like to have that issue and also fear for your safety on a daily basis. That sucks and I wouldn't wish that on anyone.


This really hits home for me. I grew up in rural Missouri where people can be pretty casual about a racist or homophobic slur, so you're often in a position where you have to decide if a confrontation is worth it, while not wanting to provide the encouragement or consent that a polite smile might imply.

But that's rural Missouri. As I said in my other comment, urban centers are more or less progressive places all over the country.


This is a major reason why I left the bay area.


It's bad enough when people say "buggy" instead of "cart" or "coke" or "soda" instead of "pop".

I can only imagine how much faster my social stamina would be depleted if everyone around me were constantly arguing about whether it would be better if I didn't exist at all, or if I just went far away, never to return.


I was with you until you said that "pop" was your preferred terminology.


I travel frequently - I just call it by whatever name its called locally.


But I've lived where people had different values than me and it just gets exhausting.

Really? I thought diversity was a good thing? I know I wouldn't want to live somewhere where everyone thought the same thing I did. Sounds boring.


The way I read the original comment was that almost everyone held different values. That says nothing about diversity—those different values might be (reading between the lines, are) all more or less the same.

Put another way: it's not a matter of living where "everyone agrees with you" but where "not everyone disagrees with you". Those aren't the same!

Diversity of ideas is definitely a good thing, and, unless you hold fringe views, it means a fair number of people do agree with you. If everyone disagrees with you either you're a real outlier or, more likely, there is less diversity of views on that particular axis.


So here's the thing - diversity of ideas is good, diversity of values is what people struggle with. As long as two people agree on where they're trying to go, they can disagree on the details of how to get there and still be perfectly happy - when either of them gets closer, both do.

But, say you're a gun nut and the people surrounding you are decidedly anti-gun-ownership - there's no shared goal, and no obvious resolution to your differences. If the people surrounding you make progress towards their goal, it goes against yours. There's nothing to do but fight. And fighting is exhausting.


Your example is one of a diversity of ideas. Some people have the idea that guns will keep them safe, others have the idea that guns will just bring on more violence. That is not a difference of values, because you can hold either position while valuing safety.


Diversity is a good thing. It's what keeps one opinion from forming a supermajority and subsequently browbeating all non-aligned opinions into lonely silence.

For instance, a lot of people around here enjoy football--so many, in fact, that it leads people to assume that everybody likes it. I don't. I think it's a fundamentally flawed sport, and not particularly interesting to watch. But since it's so popular, it's all that anyone ever seems to talk about, especially around the time of the big university rivalry game.

After the last pro game in February, I breathe a sigh of relief, thinking it's done until late summer, and maybe the sportos will turn to baseball or soccer or volleyball or lacrosse or water polo as a topic of conversation. Nope. Let's instead immediately speculate on next football season.

Do other sports even exist around here? Can we talk about both Team Whyachi bots getting knocked out of the Battlebots tournament early? Maybe talk about non-Democrat and non-Republican political issues? Maybe you've read a book lately? No? All you know is football? Oh, great; you can also talk about how you go to your conservative Protestant Christian church more than once in any given week.

This is why the spouse and I actually got excited to see a guy with visible piercings and tattoos. And to hear two lesbians with hideously thick Bostonian accents celebrate at a game. It's even sort of interesting to hear grown-ass adults talk about catching Pokemon. When everyone is the same, doing and saying the same thing, it is so tediously boring that it hurts. That is exhausting.


What does any of all that have to do with values?


It's just the most insignificant example of how being even slightly outside the local cultural norms can grate on your psyche. If I can get irritated at how people around here are football obsessed, anything more significant must have a greater impact.

So if people around here are generally hostile towards homosexuality, a gay person must feel worse than I do when people start talking about specific players on specific teams and upcoming scheduled games and the keystone play of some past game and just shut up, shut up, will you please shut the hell up about football for once?!

It makes me wonder how people even further from the norm than myself can even find the strength to get up out of bed in the morning, or, once risen, get through the entire day without destroying some ignorant blatherer with a beam of pure rage exploding from their foreheads.

It's not just about being around people who are different, but having enough different people around you that you can't just assume everyone else is like you. If you don't know that someone is Muslim, and make a derogatory comment about Muslims in front of them, that person might not feel secure enough socially to confront you about it. So they keep their religion secret from you, and you might continue crapping on something important to them, without anyone ever telling you that you shouldn't do that.

If, on the other hand, you live in a city where anybody could be anything, you are more likely to encounter situations where you are the minority in some way, and therefore will probably be more sensitive to how it feels when a local majority tramples over your opinions.

You just have to realize that other people might not share your opinions, interests, and values, and if yours are part of the local majority, other people might just be humoring you to fit in better, or irritated at the constant reminders that they are not part of the dominant tribe.


It does suck. That's a big reason why we can't just concentrate progressivism in pinpoint areas like New England or Washington State. We need sweeping, national change in order for things to really get better.


The urban/rural liberal/conservative cosmopolitan/tribal divide goes back to Roman times at least.


This post reminded me of this interesting 2 min video by ASAPScience about City vs Rural living: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRb52O76HxQ


The people who will inevitably say things like "this is just oversensitivity" or "it's an exaggeration to act like a whole city is outside your comfort zone" are either unbelievably thick-skinned or simply live in a relatively insulated, homogenous environment. I'm a straight white married upper-middle-class man and there are decidedly places I feel very uncomfortable in the country (I am thinking of highly conservative small towns in the mountain west in my particular case, where I stand out visually). You might not visit them very often, but those places are real and the feeling of being an outsider is palpable. I can only imagine how much more influential that feeling would be if I were a minority in any way, not to mention one of the minorities it's still nearly de rigueur to overtly discriminate against.


Those rural mountain west folks feel just as odd and unsafe in New York City, btw.

That feeling may or may not be an accurate representation of actual danger.


Totally agreed on both counts, but what matters really is whether you feel too uncomfortable to live in a place.


That's interesting. I'm a brown upper middle class male and i've never felt uncomfortable anywhere in the country. That includes rural parts of Illinois, Georgia, and Virginia. Americans are really warm and welcoming if you approach them on their own terms.


The majority of Americans are decent people but at least 10%-20% of them are inveterate racists who are only nice to your face. When these white folks are among "their own" the bigotry comes pouring out of their mouths.

Who do you think nominated Trump? We should all be concerned that such a big slice of America sees nothing wrong with promoting a pugnacious narcissist fueled by a message of hatred. Just look at the healthy segment of evangelicals excusing his behavior even though the man hasn't a Christian bone in his body. All because Trump furthers their bigoted agenda.


It's entirely possible southerners are just nice to my face. But I don't think coastal folks are any nicer. I grew up in the latte liberal suburbs of DC, and man talk about people who can sit around spewing hate about people different from themselves.


It jumped out at me, too, but as a wild exaggeration that could only be made by somebody unfamiliar with a place like Kansas City. I live in St. Louis where there is a thriving gay community. It's a red state, but urban centers are reliably blue.

I know people have this idea that our schools all teach creationism and gays aren't welcome, but it's simply not true.


Yep, exactly. Same with the mountain west.

That's fine with me though, I like the peace and quiet that I'm afforded -- and can do without hysterical urbanites as intolerant as the imagined middle america they fear.


Kansas City only came to mind cause I was at the last RailsConf and thought that KC was actually in Kansas. Don't take me seriously on that one :p


Most of Kansas City (the metropolitan area) is in Missouri, but much of it is in Kansas. Legally it's two cities, Kansas City, MO, and Kansas City, KS.


Oklahoma City has a very prominently placed trans officer. And hate crimes are harshly punished at the federal level. If it is dangerous for trans people outside of dark blue cities, the statistics aren't capturing it.


They're not going to murder you, but in Oklahoma City a gay or trans person will be constantly told how people are going to pray for them. It's obnoxious.


The reply is always "oh, bless your heart, I'll be prayin' for you too!"


That sounds really oppressive. Perhaps instead of moving, just tell people no thanks, f off, or mind your own business.

And who are these people constantly saying they'll pray for them? A trans person walks into a store and people just start annoying them?


> A trans person walks into a store and people just start annoying them?

You have to pay for what you want at the store. That involves a person. That person then tells that they're praying for you to be someone you aren't and never will be.

Do you somehow not encounter people in your everyday life?


Perhaps a better answer than "f off" or "mind your own business" would be "thank you, I'm sure we'll both be blessed by your prayers" even if you don't particularly believe it to be true. It's an answer that will eventually break down barriers over a few years rather than reinforce stereotypes.

As for being oppressive -- it's far better for people who disapprove of you to be saying "I'm going to pray for you" rather than have them say "I'm going to run you out of town at gunpoint and set fire to your house". The latter is the default response for most cultures and most religions across most of the planet.


> just tell people no thanks, f off, or mind your own business.

Sounds like a good way to escalate an already uncomfortable situation. It's damned if you do, damned if you don't.


I offered three entirely different options. "No thank you" to politely decline the offer. "F off" to show your extreme displeasure. And "mind your own business" for public shaming.

Holy crap do people project much.


You shouldn't make blanket statements about entire states you don't live in. Cities are liberal in every state.


I've been called 'nigger' more often in brief visits to downtown Nashville or Birmingham than I ever have during years of living in rural California. If those cities are liberal I shudder to imagine rural TN or AL.


And I've encountered more racism against me in Boston than any other US city. It's anecdotal to begin with, and it's not a reflection of all of Massachusetts or any other larger region.

My point was just that the person who said to avoid the South due to proposed discriminatory laws was basing their judgment on something that doesn't reflect a particular city's tolerance or intolerance. There are intolerant people in the rural areas of every state, which is just a function of low levels of diversity and sometimes poor histories of education.


> Cities are liberal in every state.

Cities are probably relatively liberal -- or at least, cosmopolitan -- in most parts of the country compared to non-urban areas nearby, but that doesn't mean that New York City, Atlanta, Kansas City (either of them), and San Francisco are all equally so. It doesn't even mean that cities in some regions aren't far more conservative and/or intolerant than non-urban areas in other regions.


Detroit is socially conservative?


In my experience, yes. One of the biggest boons about moving from Metro Detroit to the Bay Area is that I don't get harassed in the street for being visibly gender non-conforming anymore. Detroit consistently votes Democrat but that's more to do with the unions than the social values.


If I were gay or trans, I'd actually be more worried about Boston than Atlanta. Boston is pretty provincial. And there is a very large and public LGBT population in Atlanta.


I'm not sure Boston or Detroit are particularly good examples of the two types of cities you're trying to illustrate


I'll admit not knowing much of anything about Detroit, but I'm not sure how Boston doesn't count as a relatively safe place for LGBT individuals.


I'm sure Boston is fine in reality for LGBT individuals, it's just not the first city that springs to mind in terms of progressiveness. It's more stereotypically lunkheaded.


It's fine. MA was the first state to legalize gay marriage, and most of the population lives in and around Boston.


Really? Because it is one of the most liberal cities in the US.

Source: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/08/08/chart-of-the... , also I lived there for 25 years.


Like most places, it depends were you are. Cambridge, Somerville or JP, no problem; but Southie and certain parts of Charlestown are not very evolved.


Southie has changed a LOT in the last couple years...


Many New York artists talk about NYC as if it was cheap but it is simply not true. There is no other place in the US that concentrates so many different types of people. Patti Smith, David Byrne etc all benefitted from there being billionaires, millionaires, celebrities, thespians, high profile doctors, lawyers, and more than a century of civic dedication to arts and culture. There is a shared communal love and support for creative things in NY. Like all cities that grow, gentrification happens. But if you think the LES or east village was cheap in the 80s it's because you were white and middle class. When this author speaks he's talking to white middle class liberal arts types (like me!) and bemoaning the fact that getting direct access to world class culture isn't "cheap anymore" when the reality is if you want that in NY now you move to crown heights. And there will be some myopic look back in 25 years saying the same shit about that place too.

Ask Patti Smith what happened to the Puerto Ricans who lived there before her. Was it too cheap for them?


I think you make a good point that 'cheap' is very relative to your means and access, and the LES may not have been cheap for _everyone_ even in the 80s. Definitely important to remember.

But I'm inclined to believe Smith that it was cheap for her and people like her in a way present-day NYC isn't, for similar people today. I guess we could try to look up rent statistics over time etc.

> if you want that in NY now you move to crown heights.

Pretty sure Crown Heights ain't affordable anymore either. (idle googling suggests median Crown Heights studio apartment price today is $2000. Yeah. "Studio" means "one room (usually very small) apartment" in U.S. rental listings, not something cool like 'giant warehouse an artist can make into an art studio', heh.)

Maybe somewhere I haven't heard of (cause I don't live in NYC) in Queens or the Bronx? I don't know if you'd have the same access to culture and money living in some far-off non-subway-served part of the Bronx though.

I think Manhattan in the 80s really was kind of unusual in being cheap _and_ still a place with lots of money floating around and cultural institutions. This is unusual. It was sort of a mid-point on the re-organization of American urban geography, with NYC being a special case as usual as the biggest city in the U.S.


> Maybe somewhere I haven't heard of (cause I don't live in NYC) in Queens or the Bronx? I don't know if you'd have the same access to culture and money living in some far-off non-subway-served part of the Bronx though.

Large parts of the southern Bronx are served by subway and still affordable. The have relatively bad crime stats and you may feel out of place but all that was true in the LES in the 80s too. And even if there aren't great commuting options to the financial district or midtown, you don't necessarily need to be in quick commuting distance to take advantage of the proximity to the cultural institutions. It's still going to be far easier for your indie band to get booked into some west village bar if you are based out of some far corner of the Bronx than if you are based out of Cincinnati. And if you develop your own artsy section of the Bronx the millionaires that want to feel cool can take uber up there.

All that said, the Bronx runs into the whole "gentrification" debate in a way that I don't think some of these other towns across the rust belt do. I get the sense that in at least some of these cities everyone, or almost everyone, is happy to get any kind of population influx.


> Large parts of the southern Bronx are served by subway and still affordable

Not for long. There's already a hip coffee shop on 134th st right off the 3rd Ave bridge. Things are gonna creep upward pretty quick. Give it 5-10 years and it'll look like Harlem does now.


>I think Manhattan in the 80s really was kind of unusual in being cheap _and_ still a place with lots of money floating around and cultural institutions.

I think you're probably right. On the one hand, the city was something of a train wreck at the time and certainly there were a lot of areas like the LES and probably Hell's Kitchen, etc. that a lot of people generally stayed away from and were probably relatively cheap.

At the same time, Plenty of middle class and wealthier people weren't about to leave Manhattan for a whole host of reasons (finance industry, culture, etc.) in the way that the same cohort was fleeing other cities for the suburbs.


> "Studio" means "one room (usually very small) apartment" in U.S. rental listings, not something cool like 'giant warehouse an artist can make into an art studio', heh.)

As an American it never quite occurred to me how bullshit of a term "studio" is. It's more like "the minuscule size of this apartment makes it more appropriate for an art studio than an actual dwelling."


>idle googling suggests median Crown Heights studio apartment price today is $2000.

It's not quite that bad. Here are some actual listings for one-bedrooms in Crown Heights that rent between $1500-1700:

https://www.padmapper.com/listings/17067721.-1-bedroom-1-bat...

https://www.padmapper.com/listings/17206256.-1-bedroom-1-bat...

https://www.padmapper.com/listings/17246561.-1-bedroom-1-bat...

But everything is relative. Those apartments would rent for around $700-800 in my city.


I don't think it's worth splitting hairs on Crown Heights real estate prices being exorbitant. They are. I moved here two years ago right when the 2nd wave of gentrifiers flooded the area. It's stark.

You might be able to get a 1500-1700 if you _compete_ for one because landlords are beginning to mobilize crappy housing stock (like these apartments).


Plus, let's not forget that $1500 is still a lot of money to most people.


Especially if you are working as a server in a small restaurant or the floor of a small music shop, which is how starving artists survive while trying to build a career.

All the focus on absolute cost misses the income side of the equation, which hasn't kept up with the cost side.


> Many New York artists talk about NYC as if it was cheap but it is simply not true.

Can you clarify your position? My reading is that the article was making the point that rent is significantly more expensive in NY today than it was in the 60s and early 70s when people like Patti Smith were there.

As far as I can tell, this is objectively true. Here's a chart of of the last 100 years of rental/purchase prices in NY [1]. Admittedly one that does adjust for inflation would be better, but it pretty clearly demonstrates that the mid-70s to 2000s showed a massive leap in NY's unaffordability.

[1] http://ny.curbed.com/2015/6/2/9954250/tracking-new-york-rent...


The post is very misleading because it's not about absolute cost of living, you should also suggest data for other towns where an artist could have lived, for example some small town in Ohio.

If Patti Smith lived somewhere in Colorado mountains to do her thing, she probably wouldn't be where she is today. Artists require audience, and cities like New York have them, ready to spend money. That's why people moved to New York, and "created their scene". They would have never been able to "create their own scene" in a farm town with population of 300.

That said, it makes more sense nowadays since we now have Internet. I think you can just live wherever is the cheapest and work on your art (could be an actual piece of art or even a business) since we have the Internet.

But it's wrong to say the artists "created their scene" in New York. New York was the only place they could have "created their scene" back then.


It's a fair point that the only way for these artists to have become successful in a significant way at the time was to move to a town like New York that can supply the necessary patronage, but I'm not sure that I'd characterize the post as "very misleading".

Even with the city's money, the artists still did have to do the legwork to create a scene that was worthy of investment. Rich people aren't gullible saps who will be parted from their fortune at the first opportunity.

An artist also shouldn't have to be as wildly successful as Patti Smith to be considered a success. Other cities of high culture like Berlin have also fostered incredible art scenes over the last few decades, and without the overflowing capital of NY. Few of those artists made it big, but many did achieve comfortable lifestyles of more modest means, and I think we could say that they "created their scene".

Relevant quote from the article:

> The idea is that you live somewhere cheap, keep your overhead low, make whatever work you want to make, create your own scene. Nobody gets super-rich or super-famous, but dammit, they get to live their lives their own way, unbeholden to anybody.


You know,, Berlin is the capital city of Germany, so your Berlin example exactly supports my point. People who are motivated to succeed naturally flock to a city with access to the largest audience, as long as they can afford it, since that raises your chance of success.

I was just pointing out this Patti Smith person is completely mistaken about what made herself successful, she thinks it's all her doing but she's forgetting she was at the right place at the right time (and of course with the right content she provided). My whole argument is if you compare larger cities with any other smaller towns, everything is easier (only drawback is money), and that's why people naturally flock to larger cities. My argument has nothing to do with whether legwork is necessary or not, it's just about how people can only create "scenes" where it makes sense. It's delusional to think that they could have created it anywhere else.


Right, Berlin is the capital of Germany, but the reason I brought it up as a counterexample for New York is that the Cold War and aftermath left it economically depressed for decades. Until quite recently, rents there were very cheap (on all kinds of interesting spaces), and the art scene flourished.

(And meta note: thank-you for editing your post to be more civil. It looks like your account is relatively new, so I'm going to leave a link here to HN comment etiquette in case you haven't seen it before [1].)

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


I think art has existed and will exist no matter how shitty the situation is. I'm not even arguing New York is better than Germany. This is where I think there was a misunderstanding, because I've been just talking about how "creating a scene" is not something you can just do anywhere, it has nothing to do with money and has everything to do with population and audience.

To create a scene, you go to a concentrated enough place to gather people. Why would anyone decide to go to middle of nowhere and try to create a group of like minded people? (Again, i'm talking about the past, I do think it is possible nowadays with the Internet)

When you say rents were very cheap and depressed in Berlin, I doubt that it was cheaper or more depressed than other parts of Germany. Where would German artists go for larger population? Berlin. Unless you think german artists should have and could have created a "scene" from a smaller town in germany, I don't think we are disagreeing about anything.


While that's true, I think comparing the East Village back then to the East Village today isn't sufficient to claim that the entire city is too expensive today. Maybe a less drastic approach is fine - instead of "find a new city" which cuts you off from all the resources & audiences only found in a place like NY, just find a new neighborhood.


NYC wasn't only poor people (it's a major business metropolis of ~10MM people, not everybody is going to be poor), but it was actually affordable on a small income. In fact, most of the US was the 80s, and 90s. Don't know what you mean by the Puerto Ricans who lived there before her, because they're still there.

You're right that NYC is still somewhat affordable if you look outside of Manhattan, not Crown Heights though, but places like south Brooklyn, and east Queens. The issue is that everybody who's never lived in NYC, or only lived there after getting a college degree only considers NYC to be Manhattan + Williamsburg.

Source: Growing up poor in NYC.


I get that parts of NYC have been affordable at different times, but there are parts that get gentrified and taken advantage of by a very specific class of people (primarily white middle class) who use the depressed value of the area to have more space and time to do arts and culture stuff.

I lived in Sunset Park for many many years and saw artists moving into the studios down by the docks. They came from SOHO, DUMBO, and Williamsburg. In 25 years, they will move somewhere else.


NYC since its founding has been a commercial trading center, not a creative arts hub. I don't understand where the idea that it's a place to be creative came from. There is nothing about NYC that makes me creative (in the producing sense, not consuming) because the city is so exhausting to live in, and so cramped and noisy, that I have no energy to think freely and creatively. In fact the boredom, space and ease of the suburbs leads me to more creativity.


> now you move to crown heights

No you certainly don't. Crown Heights is expensive... very very expensive.

You move to Canarsie. That's the insanity that is NYC now.


you want that in NY now you move to crown heights. And there will be some myopic look back in 25 years saying the same shit about that place too

I smiled when I read this because I remember having a gay co-worker describing his neighborhood as "I live in controversy-ridden Crown Heights" about 27 years ago.

Holy crap, I'm old!


I used to live in Nowhere, Florida, and would move back in a heartbeat, but from an employment standpoint it became too risky. Most places outside of The Usual Tech Hubs are one-horse towns when it comes to tech employment, major opportunity risk.

If you're a software engineer and live in the Bay Area and suddenly lose your job, depending on the economy you're probably in for a 1-6 month job search at local companies where you can show up for an interview at any moment's notice. If you're a software engineer and live in flyover country and suddenly lose your job, you better plan on moving somewhere else. Interviewing involves 2-5 hour plane trips all over the country, and then when you finally find something, you need to negotiate relocation costs or fork over $5-10K to move. The prospect of repeating that cycle is pretty unpleasant.

So we put up with 2 hour commutes, tiny homes, and sky-high cost of living, because that's where the companies are.


> If you're a software engineer

I don't think the article is aimed at you or me. It's aimed at young people that want to be artists, musicians, writers, and so on. They don't need to be near tech hubs. He argues it is better for them to create their own new bohemian art communities than fight the high cost of living in NYC and SF.

That said, I think there's a case to be made for e.g. the Bronx that he ignores in favor of something like Poughkeepsie.


The "bohemian art communities" always rely on some sort of cash influx, or they collapse relatively quickly. The trick is to be near the money source, not in it.

NYC in the sixties had old money. Big Sur in the sixties had Hollywood. Seattle in the 90s had MS money (in Redmond).

You also can't move to the middle of nowhere, because art requires a community - both of collaborators, and of spectators. And it doesn't hurt if there's an existing art scene.

And you do want to be in a place that's at least somewhat liberal. Art usually pushes the boundaries of what society considers acceptable, and a liberal place allows you to push just a bit further.

And so, you can't just "create" a place. There are a lot of preconditions. (Compare to the many cities that want to "create" a second Silicon Valley)

If I should venture a bet, Detroit might work - although there are too many real estate speculators getting into the game. Possibly Grand Rapids. And their ArtPrize thing indicates they might be encouraging that.


> That said, I think there's a case to be made for e.g. the Bronx that he ignores in favor of something like Poughkeepsie.

Housing isn't the only cost that drives people out of NYC. For many, if not most, it's actually the school systems that make people move.

Yes, you can get an excellent education in NYC public schools, but it requires you to work the system (applications at every step of the way), and there is considerable risk of not getting into a great school. Even assuming your child does get into one of the great high schools, they might have a ridiculous commute every day getting to/from work.

This explains why when you cross the city line from the Bronx into Westchester County, home prices shoot up. Anywhere with good schools within a reasonable commute of NYC is going to cost you $$$$.

That's why I'd be fairly pessimistic about the case for the Bronx - it might be a pretty solid option for unattached twentysomethings, but the cost of living for a typical middle-aged engineer is going to be no cheaper than it would be for a company in Manhattan (although they may have an easier commute to the Bronx).


> it might be a pretty solid option for unattached twentysomethings, but the cost of living for a typical middle-aged engineer

Again, I think the article is aimed at twenty-something would-be artists, writers, musicians and so on. Not middle-aged engineers (like me).

I get that it was posted on hacker news and people are going to try to apply it to their own lives, but in this case it really doesn't translate all that well.


Exactly. I came to live in Boston because there is shit-all for tech companies in Jacksonville, FL. I wasn't about to start one for myself, and I wanted to both make a good salary and get lots of experience. If you want to work a job, you go where the jobs are - and those are in places like the Bay area.

Of course, none of this would be an issue if we would all just work remotely, but that's not going to happen for a while.


If you're a software engineer and live in the Bay Area and suddenly lose your job, depending on the economy you're probably in for a 1-6 month job search at local companies

That long? Funny that we're always hearing about how difficult it is for tech companies to find software engineers.

In any case, OP is expressly not talking about getting a job at a tech company -- he's talking about doing something interesting with your life. I presume this means getting a 9-5 at a laundromat in Ohio and working on open source projects in your spare time.


>I presume this means getting a 9-5 at a laundromat in Ohio and working on open source projects in your spare time.

This doesn't sound like it'd be any more conducive to productivity on side-projects than a 9-5 at a tech job. Consuming 8 hours of the work day is bad for productivity no matter what.

Also, nthing the sentiment that tech hiring is screwed up. I highly doubt that companies are having a hard time finding engineers at all.


I had a friend in grad school who got a pile of good math research done while working the overnight shift at a hotel. There's a handful of these jobs where you just need a body present, and the mind is free to go as far as it wants...


> This doesn't sound like it'd be any more conducive to productivity on side-projects than a 9-5 at a tech job. Consuming 8 hours of the work day is bad for productivity no matter what.

Well, yeah. But it's way more authentic.


> Funny that we're always hearing about how difficult it is for tech companies to find software engineers.

As we hear so often here at HN, the hiring process in the tech industry is beyond screwed up.


Most places outside of The Usual Tech Hubs are one-horse towns when it comes to tech employment, major opportunity risk.

I've heard that a lack of other major employers competing for the same employees is a significant consideration for large companies looking to change cities.

They can hire people from wherever and pay relocation, then not worry about them jumping ship over mildly lousy raises.

(Source: recruiters in town a while ago for a bank setting up a new IT office half way across the state; about half is me reading between the lines.)


The flip side of that argument is that people aren't stupid. They think of just that problem: "if I lose/don't like my job, where else can I find work?"

If the answer is "two hours east," then most applicants will pass on the "opportunity."


For those looking for cheap cities to live, I've found Zillow's data [1] on mortgage price to income ratio data [2] interesting.

Some choice datapoints:

    San Francisco, CA 9.1817795575535
    Boston, MA        4.9264239374417
    New York, NY      5.5458400782590
    Detroit, MI       2.22905530728586
    St. Louis, MO     2.4588523706753
I think the national average is around 3.1 and around 3.0 is considered "healthy" (your mortgage costs about 3x your yearly income).

[1] http://www.zillow.com/research/data/

[2] http://files.zillowstatic.com/research/public/Affordability_...


Interesting to see how much Portland spiked in the last decade, from ~3 to >5. I wonder how much of the surrounding area that includes? I've seen housing prices skyrocket in Portland, but much less so in surrounding areas. (They've still increased, but I'd hypothesize that they haven't increased nearly as much as within Portland. I'd love to see separated data to check that hypothesis, though.)


It looks like they're using a metro region. If you take a look at their "county crosswalk" [1] data that might give more information about it. For example NYC is "MetroRegionID_Zillow" 394913 that has a corresponding "RegionID" in the price to income dataset.

[1] http://files.zillowstatic.com/research/public/CountyCrossWal...


I've seen articles showing Portland and Seattle increasing 10+% per year for the last 4 years. So yeah. Not sure what specifically is going on in portland though. Hear about Seattle tech a lot more.


Tech is here because the money for tech is here. It started with the US Gov't putting money into military bases and later Lockheed and other mil contractors. During and after WWII tax regulations changed in such a way that VC become more and more profitable, and the industry grew alongside the talent pool that was being drawn in.

This created a feedback loop of talent and money. But the money is the primary driver here.

It's why if you're an entertainer you go to LA (often after NYC), or go to NYC for finance.

Going somewhere cheap and being in a garage in a vacuum does nothing for you if the climate that allows something like the Homebrew Computer Club (or an underground music club, etc.) to exist isn't there in place already. As much as it has done, the internet hasn't wholly replaced that aspect of things yet.


I think you're kind of right, but I feel the comparison with LA/NYC is slightly weird. SV is the leader in the consumer web space (and some other areas). If you're into hardware, games or electronic music the choice of SV is far less obvious. It could/would make sense to go to China, Germany or Sweden instead.

One problem is that everyone is so busy to copy SV that they fail to invent their own scene. Probably a result of having to justify yourself to investors. But it really seem like the window in which subcultures can flourish has become much smaller.


I love the sentiment. Silicon Valley and NYC became what they are because of people hacking on things in garages / shitty apartments. Now those shitty apartments cost $2,000/month. The equivalent of those places, where things like Apple started, isn't Silicon Valley and NYC. It's places like Detroit. Or wherever people doing cool things decide to move and congregate.

Then again, it is still possible to live cheaply in NYC. My friend lives in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn for $450/month. And there's value in living in or near where the community is already strong. You just have to move out a bit further and live a bit grungier.


Detroit is an actual city with deep history. It may be in decline, but it still seems like to have more going on, or at least the potential to have more going on, than small towns. There's likely a lot of other second- or even third-tier cities that are overlooked, but are still more interesting to live in than a town in "Northeast Ohio."

Austin, Portland, Boulder are becoming the new NY/SF because of the process of saturation. We just need to find the next Austins and Portlands.


Though primarily my Detroit friends are entrepreneurs or engineers working for them I've noticed that there has been a wholesale movement of artists to the city.

Though in the last five years it's gotten kind of pricey in the downtown area I keep discovering clusters of artists out in the neighborhoods in my travels in the city.

https://i-d.vice.com/en_us/article/new-york-i-love-you-but-i...

Buildings are really cheap though you've got to restore them yourself. Tax valuations though are set at pre-recession values. But if you get a lawyer they can be lowered sometimes up to 75%.

I'm starting to see others following the clusters of artists and slowly these neighborhoods are in the beginning stages of gentrification.


downtown Detroit is in a weird state right now where it's bounced back enough and gotten enough hype that it's gentrifying, but the development efforts haven't quite finished fast enough to catch up to demand.

My rent from 2013-2015 went up 35% and I eventually moved to a suburb. I tried to buy a place and even when I convinced myself to overpay would be beat out by a better all-cash offer within 24 hours of a place going on sale. It's nuts here right now.

3 years ago it was a great place to move in cheapish and be around a burgeoning scene, right now it's expensive as hell, and in 2 years will probably be back to being able to support that student/new grad/bootstrapping entrepreneur scene. We need more housing to come online, and it's being built, just not done yet.


Two of those are not like the other. Frankly, Portland has a pretty anemic economy and the colleges here are mediocre too. Boulder is a little better. Can't say Northeast Ohio is that bad, Cleveland is on par with Boulder and Portland.

Austin, OTOH has one of the best universities in the world and a host of large and important tech and software companies.


>a town in "Northeast Ohio."

She basically lives in Cleveland. Cleveland, like many rust belt cities, is very old and its borders surround a small percentage of the area. But that's an entirely arbitrary line. In practice, she lives in "Cleveland."


Chattanooga?


and Nashville


Silicon Valley was full of castaways from big high tech companies, they created Intel in the 70's, software companies in the 80's, and web companies in the 2000's

Your Midwestern cities don't have that.


Unfortunately, as soon as an area demonstrates it is becoming a significant hacker/maker region, speculation drives housing process through the roof killing the trend before it seriously takes off. For example Portland OR.

If there is ever going to be another profuondly innovative tech center (ala early SV) we have to solve the way housing prices work first.


But to be fair, Portland _is_ trying. Every hole in the ground, is a mid-level apartment building going up. Yeah it's changing rapidly here and prices have risen. Still, you have to give the city some props for trying very hard to deal with it.

Unlike San Fransisco that doesn't drastically try to increase inventory.


It is also an interesting test case for the hypothesis that merely increasing inventory, however enormously, will fix the problem.


I can't agree more. But it's hard. I feel Silicon Valley and NYC became what they are because of cheap real estate and talent pool.

I find it hard to find places with a lot of talent but undervalued real estate these days. Maybe all low hanging fruit is gone.

In Europe, London, Oxbridge, Stockholm are somewhat similar. Insane prices. Berlin and to a certain extent Copenhagen are cheaper. Some smaller locations like Cluj are quite cheap, but maybe a bit outside common tech circles.


Copenhagen? I don't know how much real estate costs there but I doubt it's cheap. Last time I visited it was as expensive as Zurich (I.e. Double German prices).

Better examples might be Leipzig and Prague.


IMHO suburbs in Copenhagen are pretty affordable wrt salaries.


Malmö is probably a better deal in that case.


Kiev?


How did your friend find an apartment in Bed Stuy for only $450? Rent controlled? Splitting a bedroom with someone else? A quick search on streeteasy gives literally no apartments in Bed Stuy for less than $1k currently available, the cheapest being $1350 for a very small studio apartment. Craigslist has individual rooms for as little as $700, but that's still way more than what your friend is paying.


Can anyone comment on how and why this price increase happened? Has supply not kept up with demand?


Basically, yes.

I recommend reading Kim-Mai Cutler's series of articles about Bay Area housing to get a better picture. Her piece from 2014, "How Burrowing Owls Lead to Vomiting Anarchists"[0] is a good place to start.

In short, it's the preponderance of restrictive zoning laws (largely caused in CA by Prop 13), poor regional cooperation, and land entitlements (see Prop 13).

[0] https://techcrunch.com/2014/04/14/sf-housing/


This idea that cities reach a point of maximum growth, become unaffordable, and should be abandoned by potential newcomers: this is currently true, but it's a broken system, and it's time we look at ways we can improve it.

When a city becomes unaffordable, when rents skyrocket-- those expenses are someone else's windfalls. When people expect the value of real estate to rise and rise indefinitely-- those windfalls are someone else's expenses.

I've come to believe that so much of these structural problems are essentially reducible to issues of land-use (property/land taxes), but there is so little focus at present on reforming this.


I think Community Land Trusts are a great example of the sort of thing people should be looking into as an alternative to the current model. Don't see people talking about them much.

The basic idea is that a nonprofit purchases the land in a community and holds it in perpetuity. It rents the land long-term to residents (and for the most part, they're required to be residents), instead of selling it. It's still possible for residents to purchase homes- they just won't own the land they're sitting on top of. That way, you avoid speculation and skyrocketing land prices. Many CLTs also designate some proportion of the land as "low-income", and set accordingly lower rents for those residents.


How does that control the cost of housing?

I'm assuming that one would go to a land trust, sign a contract to rent a lot for $X/month for 99 years (or something similar).

Then you would build a house, probably get a construction mortgage to afford it. Then your monthly payments would be mortgage + $X.

Area becomes wildly attractive and people move in. Suddenly people are offering mortgage * 200% for your house, knowing they'll add $X to their money payment.

Housing still gets expensive. What am I missing?


Based upon the details of this diagram from Wikipedia[0], it appears that there are restrictions on resale. The CLT sets maximum prices for resale (I'd like to know how), allowing some profit.

In some ways, this appears to be analogous to rent control, except each apartment is replaced by a home.

I see some similar issues, though-- if a CLT becomes extremely attractive, I wouldn't suspect it wouldn't necessarily respond to signals that more housing stock is needed. You could get to the point that there's a scarcity of affordable housing, much as you see with rent control today.

Am I missing something in this analysis?

[0] https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/50/Communit...


Thanks for digging it up. I agree that a limit on sale price is just like rent control. Creates a ton of distorted incentives in the marketplace.


I could see it being useful in spreading risk, etc (it could essentially replace the need for zoning laws), but it doesn't really attack the underlying problem.

I see it as being compatible with a land value tax (which would align incentives optimally), but not a replacement for it.


I've wanted to look more into CLTs, but haven't yet--

What's stopping CLTs from existing today? Is it merely the novelty and relative complication of the CLT? Or is there policy that makes them impractical?


They do exist! There are, I believe, currently a few hundred in the US. They're just spreading very, very slowly. I imagine the main issue is a combination of lack of public awareness + the difficulty of acquiring land + lack of public policy to accommodate the weird structure.


Ah, interesting. I'm familiar with some of the historical land trusts (Fairhope, Arden), but not the contemporary ones... I really need to learn more.

I suppose they're mainly helpful for before when a housing market reaches the breaking point. That is, before the land is unaffordable.

Are people trying CLTs in Detroit? It seems a natural place to experiment with it.


They do exist. What's stopping them from being more prevalent? Probably the lingering effects of McCarthyism.


I think this is a big part of it. I've been jabbering about collectivism for a decade, and almost everyone's first reaction is to tell me why that can't possibly work and there's a reason for capitalism, and if it made sense a company would do it, yada yada yada.


I've been hearing these NIMBY complaints for a while from SF Hacker News commenters and didn't really pay attention as I live in the suburbs of DC.

Sure enough, I noticed a sign from a concerned citizens group at Starbucks the other day. Basically rallying up the troops to oppose a new 5 story apartment is a very residential wealthy area.

Thinking about for a minute, I started to get pretty damn angry: 1. The average house in this neighborhood is well over $500k. 2. The prices have probably tripled since the mid 90's. 3. The vast majority of homeowners are aged 50+ with nice gov, military, and private sector pensions.

Meanwhile, those of us aged 35 and below are either living with roommates or spending about 2/3 of our take home pay on rent. Buying a house in the area is out of reach for everyone except a few couples with high dual incomes.

Part of me wants to start going to these meetings to let these older folks know that these type of restrictions are really damaging to the generations behind them. I doubt they'd care much, though.


This view ignores the benefits of the large cities.

The rents are high for a reason. You want to go there. And not just for the cultural opportunities. Most people want good jobs.

You can't have everyone starting startups, or working remotely.

To put it another way, almost everything important and interesting you do will require other people.


> You can't have everyone starting startups, or working remotely.

Not everyone, but let's face it, a HUGE number of existing in-office jobs could be fairly easily made remote, which would cut down on the appeal of large cities. I think if even 10% of all currently in-office jobs became remote, you would see a significant movement away from the big cities.


Definitively this. Most in-office jobs involve using a computer a lot for data crunching or whatever, or it requires a lot of meetings that you can have just as well over Skype or Google Hangouts. Even meeting with clients can be done remotely, and there are technical solutions for transferring and handing off documentation and the like.

The only things that absolutely require on-site are things that deal explicitly with the site itself: construction, custodial services and maintenance, hosting parties 'n shit, whatever. The average 9-to-5 pencil pusher job, on the other hand, has no reason not to be remote.

I firmly believe that the modern concept of the "office" will change drastically enough in the coming years that an office will no longer be a physical place, but a state of being - "in the office" now becomes "in job/work mode". We as employees just need to push for this change, now that commutes are getting dumber and dumber. In places like Boston, anyway.


Note, however, that a lot of people reverse-commute. They don't live in the city because their job is there, they live there because they want to. Some of my coworkers even reverse-telecommute, working from their apartments downtown rather than schlepping their macbooks all the way to an office building in the suburbs.


The Internet was supposed to help by breaking down information barriers but the effect seems to have been extremely minimal. I can now learn almost anything instantly in Nowhere, West Virginia but that doesn't seem to matter.

It shows two things I think:

(1) The Internet has yet to replicate anything close to the "bandwidth" of in-person interaction.

(2) Capital for virtually any endeavor is geographically concentrated and the Internet does not seem to have changed that much.


To add on to your #1 - There's no desire/impetus to bridge that particular gap. It's very easy to just tell prospective employees to show up. I wonder how long rent will have to increase before prospective employees stop showing up.


Note though that with respect to jobs, many or most large companies may be in the suburban/exurban orbit of medium to large cities but aren't actually in high rent inner metro areas. The Bay area is something of an outlier in that Silicon Valley tends to be as expensive as SF itself.

In the Boston area, it's quite recent that a substantial number of tech jobs have sprung up in Cambridge/Boston proper. Historically most tech was out in the 128 and 495 corridors--and much of it still is where rents and house prices are (mostly) much lower than in the preferred neighborhoods of the city.


> Most people want good jobs.

He specifically mentions that in the article:

> I realize now when I said “young folks” I meant young artists and poets and other creative people who were like me about ten years ago: poor, or not wealthy, trying to figure out where to live, and wanting to do something weird and interesting that doesn’t necessarily fit into a traditional model. Not: get a job at a tech company, get big art world gallery shows, etc.


For people looking for that 70s NYC like experience, with proximity to NYC, I HIGHLY suggest checking out the Albany / Troy area.

Both are gritty little cities with a bunch of interesting people living there doing interesting shit, all for next to nothing. You can rent a townhouse for under a thousand / month. Shit, you can BUY a gorgeous 19th century townhouse for under a 100k - the same thing that would be 3 million in the Brooklyn where Patti Smith and Robert Maplethorpe lived.

I'm not going to go on about how much there is to offer there, because I could do that for paragraphs. You should just go check it out for yourself.


I knew someone was going to be promoting Troy when I read the article :) Lived there for five years, basically the Twilight Zone. Last time I was up there I stayed in a boarding house, because that's still a thing. There are some neat things going on but there's a lot of scammy pseudo-startup stink to the area.

Also the really cheap parts of town are still pretty not-that-safe. It's gotten better but there are parts of Troy you don't want to be in if you're not of the current population. I expect that will change as Brooklyn continues to migrate to the area.

Beware with "cheap" properties bought off the city, the city comes around with their hands out once you've closed. I guess that's everywhere though.

But mostly go visit Trojan Electronics and get a few hot dogs at Famous Lunch. And remember at 10 *F in March you still go stand in line when the Snow Man opens. Go watch a burlesque interpretation of Ghost Busters at the Hangar.


I second Troy (I hate Albany but that is personal preference). They are also reasonably safe considering how improvised they have been in recent times. Prices in Troy are already starting to climb, so get while the getting is good.

One thing I will say is that both are very small compared to a NYC feel, and public transit is awful.


For sure, they are very small places.

But they are old, dense cities and are very walkable / bikeable. You can even ride between the 2 on a nice path that runs next to the Hudson (they are about 6 miles apart).


Isn't Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute around there?


Yep, there is also a pretty decent tech scene driven by a couple of local successes (mostly RPI affiliated):

Apprenda Commerce Hub Vicarious Visions etc...


Yes, RPI is in Troy. It would be one of the points on my list of assets. They have this amazing music venue called EMPAC...


I really enjoyed this article. I think that if there's one thing that's going to gut the creativity and character of our cities it's going to be hugely increasing rents and housing prices that we're seeing in almost all major urban centers.

> Young folks: Forget New York City. Forget San Francisco. Forget Austin, Texas. Stay out of debt, live somewhere cheap, make something happen

> This is pretty much what I was trying to say a few days ago, when I posted a series of Tweets that I thought were fairly uncontroversial, not to mention unoriginal:

A little off topic, but it's sort of a sign of the state of Twitter today that an unoffensive, positive, and fairly thoughtful tweet like this one is enough to set off the Twitter hate machine (I think that's what he's implying happened here). Many users seem to be put in a concerted effort to read other people's comments as uncharitably as they possibly can.


Well, in the first place, contrast the staccato proclamation of the tweet with the article leading up to that tweet. Twitter is a terrible way to try to communicate anything that needs explanation.

In the second place, Austin and especially SF do have locals with well-known and even organized hostility towards newcomers.


Everywhere is just a buncha kids trying to make it, until they do, then others want in, so they get there, copy everything, until they crowd others out, repeat the process.

Find a new game server.


While cost of rent is lower in nowheresville, the network effects are much, much lower too. There is definitely a benefit to living somewhere that has a thriving community around whatever it is you're doing (software, tech, art, etc). Having only a small community runs the risk of stagnation.


This is a good article, in particular the first point that the "super star" cities were affordable places to live from the late 60s through the early 90s if you didn't mind a pretty gritty situation. However, I don't think you can recreate that situation easily in an affordable rust belt city.

The reason those cities were affordable at that time was white flight. The wealthy and middle class white population was moving to the suburbs, causing demand for housing to fall dramatically reducing costs (as well as the tax base, causing decay, increasing white flight). However the businesses that drove those cities did not leave. San Francisco was still a financial hub on the west cost. New York was still the center of finance and business for the entire country. So you had a place were creative people could gather and live affordably as well as an economy that produced enough excess to support the artists and musicians. (a struggling rust belt city doesn't have that many coffee shops and no local money to buy art and pay cover charges and clubs)

I guess what I'm saying is that those times are gone. There are cities where artists artists "are creating their own scene". New Orleans springs to mind, but those cities are getting expensive fast because there just isn't the huge excess of housing there was during white flight.


Come to Omaha! Lots of talk about how you can't find jobs or culture in small places, and talk of how the big cities are expensive for a reason. That may be true if you're trying to be an actor, but Omaha has a thriving tech scene, extremely low unemployment, and one of the lowest costs of living of any major metro area. It's safe, LGBT friendly, family friendly, great schools, and the people are nice and laid back.

There is a sweet spot between too big and expensive and too small and isolated. I have lived in NYC and there is nothing I'm missing in Omaha. Although the scale is obviously much different everything I want is within reach, and usually takes a lot less time to get to. Public transportation sucks, but it really is a great city otherwise and has some things NYC doesn't (better beers, and steaks that are better and actually affordable).

There are others within this sweet spot. Minneapolis, the less expensive bits of Denver, Kansas City, and others I am less familiar with. Omaha is pretty much the cheapest of the cities I consider acceptable, but I encourage all of you to find your sweet spot city if you want to live well or cheap.


This really resonates with my choice to live in Albuquerque, NM.

Maybe San Francisco, New York, Austin, etc, are better, but (almost) everything those cities have we have too, just in fewer quantities, or more grounded, or both.

I would argue we have a certain cultural richness not found in cities dominated by exposed brick and a 1920s rough aesthetic complemented by modern accessories.

For starters, the state is home to 20+ separate nations that predate the United States.


I've been considering a move from PDX to ABQ this year, for reasons of geography and social culture; however the job market here has completely spoiled me and I haven't followed up on many job leads over there. It does not seem to be exactly what one could remotely consider a tech hub, which is actually part of the draw for me, honestly.


He has a decent point. He is, perhaps, not saying it very well. It generally doesn't work to use imperatives, like "Find a new city." His point might go over better if it were framed more like 'Artistic youth need a new option."

I totally get where he is coming from when he says you just need to move to someplace cheap. I am a big fan of doing what is within my means, regardless of whatever is going on in the world. But you have to be careful with how you frame such thoughts. Framing in a way that can be read as "It is your fault your life sucks" instead of "It sucks that places like New York and San Francisco aren't what they were a few decades ago. But maybe the piece within your hands is picking a new place to live that meets your needs better."


I agree with the sentiment of that tweet mentioned in the article, except that Austin isn't really comparable to NYC or SF in terms of living expenses. Perhaps more expensive than the average American city these days, but definitely not in the stratosphere like those other two.


There's a difference between attracting artists, and attracting engineers. Both thrive in communities surrounded by like minded people. The difference is entry level artists can't live in high priced cities, so they must find new habitats. Otherwise art goes back to a hobby for the idle rich. Engineers can get by (if not save a ton) on entry level jobs in places like Silicon Valley or SF. It just takes a willingness to have roommates.

I left Manhattan because you had to be in a hedge fund to have a good life. For all the talk of Silicon Valley being expensive, you don't need to add private school costs to a $6K rent.


I left Manhattan because you had to be in a hedge fund to have a good life. For all the talk of Silicon Valley being expensive, you don't need to add private school costs to a $6K rent.

Manhattan vs. Silicon Valley isn't exactly a fair comparison.


My point is that engineers aren't priced out of Silicon Valley like artists are of New York City.


I definitely understand the need for a progressive city -- I grew up in the midwest in a place that was decidedly not.

But Paul Graham gave a talk about how Pittsburgh could be the next startup city [1]. And price factors in for both artists and entrepreneurs.

[1] http://www.paulgraham.com/pgh.html


There are many, many relatively progressive places that are less expensive than SF. Pittsburgh is one. Smaller college towns are others. There are lots.

The real monopoly SF has is its investor ecosystem. There's talent everywhere.

I wonder if equity/SAFE crowdfunding (e.g. WeFunder) will help geographically decentralize tech?


Pittsburgh has been hip for a wild. It's pretty cool for sure. Reality is it's hard to top Bushwick, Brooklyn, it's pretty far out, but the people in 'Pitt, give it a run for it's money.


If that's true, then why isn't PG holding Y Combinators in those other cities? I mean, he's the one running it; he should (relatively) easily be able to set one up wherever he wants.


Techstars (am I even allowed to post about them here ;) ) has franchised to different cities: http://www.techstars.com/programs/


There is YC Fellowship. I'm sure he could be doing more, though.


Depends on the field and type of work.

If you work from home then sure, the location doesn't matter much. But for more traditional occupations (pretty much anything other than creative work or location-independent business), big cities are better because they offer more opportunities and often higher paying jobs.


I used to live in Fargo, North Dakota, and might suggest that as an affordable town that embraces weirdos.


Cleveland is a great city


Cleveland is fine if you are reasonably well off. Like many run down urban areas it is currently going through a substantial revival (driven mostly by "hipsters" opening vegan restraunts and the like.)

I can only imagine it would be miserable to be truly poor in Cleveland, especially as it continues to gentrify.


I'm sad this is all the way at the bottom, but I can't say I'm surprised.




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