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Zoom towns and the new housing market for the two Americas (npr.org)
89 points by jelliclesfarm 15 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 182 comments

The disassociation of how you make your living and where you live will have interesting long-term social consequences.

Until recently, most people have had to live where they made their living. Farmers lived on farms. Workers lived near mines, mills, factories and offices in which they worked. Even rich people lived in the cities where their businesses and investments were located, at least until the late 1800s when rail commuting to nearby suburbs allowed them to live in more pleasant surroundings. Even so, the wealthy continued to identify with their cities, participated in civic life, indulged in philanthropy, and were reasonably concerned about their city's quality of life.

In the 1960s, jet travel became cheap and frequent for the wealthy. The really rich became detached from the cities and moved to enclaves of wealth in Newport, Carmel, Palm Springs, Palm Beach, etc. from which they could reach cities occasionally, but from which they could safely ignore urban problems. The urban cores declined, in part, because the wealthy no longer cared.

Information technology enables a whole new slice of the population to detach where they live from where they make their living. Their political and social interests will shift to where they live, and they will abandon where they make their living.

For almost all of human history, people have "worked from home". The workplace as a distinct separate space from the home is only about a couple of centuries old.

This will all depend what % of employers stay with their current remote structure. It’ll be somewhere between 1% of 80/90%.

The point is that we’re making long-term decisions based on short-term problems. Specifically this week JP Morgan asked its traders to return to the office.

You can counter this with examples like Facebook opening an office in Austin some years ago because that’s where the talent had moved. Similar in Boulder.

There will certainly be some % of employers who keep remote-first. And another scenario where they are forced to or the employees decide they love their lifestyle (which is likely). In the latter employers are either forced to adopt it or or the employees just leave or in some concentrations big companies start building offices in a distributed way.

We’re severely limiting our job choices if we stay remote but most employers don’t.

Before when we go off and buy houses or sign long-term leases we should really just wait this out until the Spring or whenever the virus is neutralized.

exactly this. i'm pretty surprised at the number of people buying homes in far out locations, like this "new normal" is going to be the "new normal" ongoing. I don't buy it (yet). There are a few companies that have bought in, and if you work there then at least you're set for a bit. But people only stay at a tech job for a few years typically - what happens when you want to switch companies?

It's certainly possible that people have taken a liking to remote work and decided it's the right move for themselves. Whether in 5 years remote work is much more prevalent than it was in Feb 2020 or about the same doesn't necessarily affect your own individual decision making.

If you’re used to receiving BigCo pay and bought a mansion in a remote vacation hotspot, you could be in for a rude awakening if you find other remote jobs pay half as much and your employer knows that and stops giving you refreshes.


The FAANG crowd is used to pulling down $100k-$150k. Developer jobs that are advertised as remote from day one tend to be closer to $50k-$70k.

(These numbers are based on a combination of rumors and job board postings, so no, I don't have a source to cite.)

Erm, in my experience (20 years, good but not a superstar) the numbers are 2x that. My last BigCo offer was $300k total comp and jobs with smaller companies (all remote) were around $120-150k. One startup offered me $190k to work remote (but I would have been the only remote worker).

That said, I agree that your average non-FAANG job pays about half of FAANG. Although this is true regardless of remote-ness.

You are getting those offers because of your 20 years of experience, not because remote work is inherently lucrative. Most people with 10 or fewer years of experience are used to seeing remote-only offers of less than $100k.

I have less than 20 years experience (less than 10 even) and I have gotten/seen a bunch of offers/jobs/etc with remote-only or remote-first over 100k

Do you believe your experience is common, or that you are an outlier?

It's less me, and more the experience of myself, my close friends and professional colleagues. But as with everything, I would assume it's a mix of both.

Can you speak more about these experiences? Are these colleagues from average or elite schools? FAANG type backgrounds or typical corp resumes?

No, we're all pretty average people. Mediocre colleges with mediocre degrees and mediocre working histories.

I work for a big company you've heard of as a developer. I'm fully remote since pre-pandemic and plan to stay fully remote indefinitely.

If you're a good developer with experience, it doesn't really matter where you are. I actually get paid more total comp than I would in SF, my cost of living is lower, and my tax situation is much better.

This is interesting, they pay you extra to not live in SF?

Sorry I missed your reply, but technically, yeah. Being remote when I switched jobs gave me an absolutely great negotiating posture. I didn't even have to leave the house, and it's not as if I was stepping away from my desk to make secret phone calls. Plus I could work anywhere in the world, so it became about company selection and negotiation.

Once I found the company and nailed the interviews, I got an offer ~30% lower than the SF salary because of CoL adjustment. My position was that if my salary could be offset by much riskier equity (aka more than the 30% cut, but essentially free for the company), I would accept the position. So I ended up getting a larger total comp than would have been available to me in SF. Also I don't even need 50% of my salary to live outside of CA anyway, so it's a major lifestyle upgrade.

This only works because I get to choose any company in the world. That means the equity I get is something I would have invested in anyway given the opportunity.

For the first time in my career I feel that I negotiated well and have confidence in my employer, and it never would have happened by just being another dev in the bay area.

This comment is all kinds of wrong. FAANG is "used to" pulling down anywhere from 150-400k.

On the flipside, many many remote jobs pay significantly more than you're describing, more in line with every other non-FAANG developer jobs. If you're just looking at those poorly managed "Remote Job Board" sites, of course you'll think that, because most of those jobs are just subcontracts and gig-type roles.

Yes, there'll be a COL difference, but it's not like you're describing. Gitlab, as an example, pays a Data Engineer in nowhere Indiana 90-120k for remote work.

I too want to wait and see, but I could see things shifting more permanently. When employees get benefits, they tend to be "sticky": they're not easily given up. Working remotely in a nicer place is a pretty good benefit for a lot of people.

You only interview at companies that support remote (or with hiring managers who will support you being remote in an org that isn’t fully committed to remote) and you keep a large emergency fund to give you substantial runway between jobs (~1 year expenses). Very easy to do on a tech salary and you moved to a low cost of living area with cheap housing (<$1k/month mortgage, reasonable property taxes).

I hate to ask for a citation, but where are you getting that 1% number? It seems made-up.

I would guess that more than one percent of office workers will be permitted/encouraged to go remote, but I think that few companies will go remote. There is no reason why remote needs to be a company-wide Boolean selection.

well what we've heard from remote-first companies is that remote culture is a very deliberate thing. if you have hybrid model and don't actively work to include remote folks, they will naturally become second class citizens - less visibility, less in the loop, and less likely to get promoted. so i think that's in part where the boolean pressure is coming from.

For people who strongly prefer to work remotely, doesn't this seem like a cost they sign up for?

If they don't have better options. But there are better options out there where remote is central.

> whenever the virus is neutralized.

I suspect not before 2022. And even that is generous.

I am really curious about this trend myself.

I live in a town - Bend, Oregon - that already had a lot of remote workers. It also has a housing affordability problem that is getting rapidly worse.

I'm also curious about the "non-zoom" towns and what the dynamics might look like there. Bend was already fairly well-known, but there are tons of former mining/logging/ranch towns throughout the west that have access to a lot of fun stuff to do in the outdoors, but are still relatively cheap because they aren't "on the radar".

I facilitate a local YIMBY group here in Bend, but it's an uphill battle. A town of 100K people can enact some good policies (and we have), but if even 1K people from the bay area decided to move here, that would massively change our housing market.

Perhaps moving onwards into the 'next hot spots' is what will keep happening? But that still leaves people in service jobs that can't be remote and don't earn as much as all the remote workers in a really bad spot. Who's going to teach their kids? Take care of them in the hospitals? Fight fires?

I wrote about it here: https://journal.dedasys.com/2018/07/27/fight-or-flight-yimby...

> A town of 100K people

I know it doesn't really mean anything, but it always just seems peculiar to me when people refer to places with tens or hundreds of thousands of residents as "towns"

I guess mainly because the general consensus is that a "town" is smaller than a "city".

The "town" I grew up in had about 3k residents. To us, the place a half hour away with the big box stores where we'd do our shopping was the "city". It had all of 30k people.

Then again, that was 10x the size of where we lived.

It all depends on what you're used to.

I was born in a City of 6 million people.

I then moved to a City of 2 million people. It feels small by comparison.

To me a "city" is a place with an opera house, multiple museums, multiple options for every type of good international cuisines, shops open in the evening, and a transit system beyond bus (tram, or metro/subway).

I lived for a couple of years in a place that was the capital of a European nation, but was only about 600,000 people, and had "only" 3 Ramen restaurants. It felt like a town to me, not a city.

So yeah, I basically feel like every place below 1MM is a town.

In a city, I should to be able to (though I never have, and never will) streak naked down the street during rush hour, and for it to be a non-event. The European capital I lived in that thinks it's a city once had a frontpage story in the daily newspaper with the headline "Man on <street name> gets on all fours and barks like a dog at passerbys". That's not a city to me.

3k residents I would call a village.

It’s interesting how different everyone’s perspective is on this — it hadn’t crossed my mind before.

My parents grew up in a town of one thousand people. There was a small bakery in the town and we had a leg up on all the other towns because we had a post office. If I ever misbehaved and did something I wasn’t supposed to, my parents knew before I even made it home because all of the residents knew each other and could call my parents to tell on me.

Anything smaller than that was a village.

Later, I moved to a city of about 300,000 people. There were multiple big box stores and, as you said, shops and restaurants open late into the night. That city was surrounded by suburbia. That was a big city in my eyes.

Now, I live in a city of about 50,000 people and I guess that’s what a normal city looks like in my eyes. It has a few restaurants, a few somewhat culturally distinct areas, and a college and university.

When I visited New York City, I would have characterized it as a metropolis, not just another city.

Going back, I think the defining characteristic for a city is that it’s large enough not to keep everything in your head. You don’t know everyone or everything in the city anymore, so you’re forced to make subdivisions. It’s not “the bakery next to the Jones’s up the street” but instead it’s downtown/uptown/Westside/Eastside.

That makes sense too!

I think by most people's definitions yours is closer to the standard. My wife did not grow up in the 6MM city like I did but towns of 70,000, 500,000, and 3,000 respectively, and she thinks my "It's not a city unless it's over 1MM people" take is the highpoint of douchey elitist snobbery.

I think that "keep everything in your head" is a reasonable cutting off point. Despite me scoffing at that "only 3 ramen restaurants" city I lived in, it's not like i know and have been to every restaurant in the place. A town you probably would be able to go to each one if you wanted to after a year.

I was born in a town of similar size and have always been fascinated by my friends who grew up their entire lives in Houston who have no relatives in such small places and really have no concept of how different it can feel an hour outside of the city.

Recently I was surprised to read that at the time of the Revolutionary War, Philadelphia was the nation’s largest city with only 20,000 residents!

Hah, ok fair enough. It's the county seat and to get to a larger city you have to drive 3 hours. It was also 30K 30 years ago, so it still conserves some 'small town feel'.

It also has a housing affordability problem that is getting rapidly worse.

This is almost certainly caused by an overly restrictive zoning regime that restricts the supply of housing and thus raises the price. The city likely bans all missing middle housing: https://missingmiddlehousing.com/

That's part of it. Oregon passed HB 2001 last year, so that's... something, but new missing middle housing won't appear overnight. We're also working on some other stuff here: https://bendbulletin-or-app.newsmemory.com/?publink=0ee63f5f...

> Many Americans — especially 30-somethings who remain employed — are ditching their tiny rental apartments in hip districts of expensive cities and moving to buy houses in more affordable cities or the burbs...

I suppose I fall into this category but even houses in the burbs seem more expensive than they should be. I’m specifically looking at up and coming towns, not any random burb but buying a house that’s literally 2-3X what it sold for 3-5 years ago is hard to justify. I really want to finally purchase something but I’m worried the market will fall out from under itself in a year or two after COVID financial aftermath settles down and I end up way underwater.

EDIT: typo

I was thinking that the high-end vacation towns of the affluent would be a pretty good investment bet, because even when remote work isn't popular there still is high end demand for vacationers. Think places like Jackson Hole, Aspen, Maui, Nantucket, Newport RI, Hilton Head, Scottsdale, etc... could see places like that retaining their value no matter what happens.

Some of those places you listed crashed hard after 2008 and others didn’t. I think there are trends in vacation destinations that can cause speculation. Also, many of the the buyers are leveraging wealth from equities that is more variable than the salaries the average homeowner uses. If there’s a prolonged stock market drop during a recession, many may be forced to liquidate when buyers are fewer and poorer (you’d prefer not to sell anything in a downturn, but the vacation home might be the first to go). I saw people take huge losses on vacation properties after 2008.

Lots of cities in the southeast are still undervalued IMO. I'm a North Carolinian, and there's been no shortage of northern transplants over the years. Charlotte and Raleigh have grown like crazy, and show no sign of stopping. Tons of young people moving here despite the well-deserved reputation of this area being pretty boring. I guess boring is a plus these days. West coasters largely haven't caught on, but I don't think the migrations will stop, especially with COVID.

Charlotte and Raleigh are fairly safe bets, but Winston-Salem seems like it might be on a similar path (but much earlier on in that path if so).

I moved west to avoid the bizarre laws that are common in the south -- weird restrictions on arbitrary divisions of product, state constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, laws demanding that schools teach creationism, and so forth. When I lived in Fayetteville, you could buy beer at a grocery store, but liquor was only for sale by the state government. I bought a house once that required a lot of legal fees and paperwork to have a covenant removed from the property prohibiting its sale to black people. All these little quality of life setbacks added up to a real desire to get out of the south as soon as my military work was done.

I'm just not sure the allure is there, depending on which of these issues actually affects you.

Fayetteville is just awful - would never recommend that place to anyone.

I moved west for a while too. Eventually moved back to NC though. Most quirks that came from being in the south just didn't outweigh the positives in my case. ABC stores are weird, but the selection and prices are usually decent at least. I certainly never experienced anyone teaching creationism in Charlotte-Meck schools. Racial covenants are also something I've never had a friend or family member experience in Charlotte - though maybe it's because I'm from North Charlotte so most of the homes there are new construction or considered gentrified. I have read about racial covenants and redlining every where though - and Seattle certainly felt far more segregated than Charlotte and Raleigh did in that regard.

I will concede though - that gay marriage amendment that passed a few years back, was extremely disheartening and certainly did play a role in my temporary abandonment of my home state. Notably, all the big cities and every area that had a university voted against it. But still, I was aghast that the bill passed at all. I'm very glad that SCOTUS stepped in and that's not an issue any more.

It's not for everyone, and I'd even say that Fayetteville is not for anyone... but there are real reasons the metropolitan areas have grown like crazy. Charlotte and Raleigh now have something like 60% of residents being people who were not born in NC. It's probably just weather, house prices and jobs - but if somebody just wanted to live somewhere affordable that was going to go up in value - you could probably do a lot worse.

Right now, being a landlord in SF is looking pretty grim given that tech workers who used to rent are fleeing in droves and those that are not are negotiating their rents. I wonder whether this trend will reverse in the next 1-3 years or this is the new permanent dynamic of the SF rental market.

The midatlantic region is filled with cities that are carcasses of an industrial era that doesn't exist anymore.

It's not "doom and gloom" to say that when there are examples of it happening before.

San Francisco's tax base is leaving. What do you think is going to happen?

Rent wise, San Francisco will just be Anytown, USA with a little bit of scarcity due to plethora of rent control and old tenants with grandfathered in low property tax due to state law.

City better balance its budget.

Doom and gloom was real in the mid atlantic when the factory left, and suddenly everyone had to move or be unemployed. People aren't getting fired in droves in SF. They are just a little bit unhappy with city living for a while, and are still gainfully employed. Uprooting their lives and leaving is an option afforded by having the funds to stay put or live like a king in half the continental U.S.. Plenty of people will stay put because for some people the hassle of moving out of your city and reestablishing your life elsewhere sucks more than riding out a pandemic in familiar waters. Completely different scenario than the contraction of the american steel industry, where peoople had to skip town if they wanted to put food on the table. Entirely different economic classes of workers. Not to mention a lot of the movement in the past from cities was also due to white flight.

> San Francisco's tax base is leaving. What do you think is going to happen?

For one thing, they'll tax the remaining taxpayers until they move or die.

I moved to SF in 2009 and there were very few tech companies in town and it was in the middle of recession. Even then good places had a bidding war. If you read this Bay Area housing market report[1], you will see that it still showing strength in SFH market. My guess is SF will continue to do fine

[1] https://www.bayareamarketreports.com/trend/san-francisco-hom...

I can't believe you are still trusting real estate agents and mortgage underwriters when half of the market signals are completely missing.....

yes, to them it seems like a lot of business

evictions and foreclosures have barely started in San Francisco and will be completely backlogged

nationwide: a few hundred thousand people playing around with low interests rates, millions of people pending default

like I said, scarcity and views will continue to help San Francisco prices as it has for the last 170 years, but it can also become like those midatlantic satires of civilization.

I don't know what are data sources to look for real estate demand other than real estate transactions. Anyways, that's not the broader point I am making. The broader point I am making is that it was a thriving City with or without tech and continue to be one. The Golden Gate bridge, GG park, the ocean, the bay, the museums, the charming hills, and train cars is not going to vanish when all tech workers leave. I fell in love with SF even before I started working in SF.

I actually think rent going down in sf will open up a lot of opportunities that wasn’t possible due to cost.

So much culture left sf to Oakland due to cost. As SF rent gets cheaper, I suspect we’ll see art, food, and activism jobs come back.

I would assume most sensible landlords had not assumed that prices would magically go up forever, and were aware that sometimes housing prices fall!

Of course, sensible landlords are in short supply; a lot of amateur landlords do seem to see it as a magic money tree.

> I wonder whether this trend will reverse in the next 1-3 years or this is the new permanent dynamic of the SF rental market.

IMO, that's completely dependent on how much SF tech companies embrace remote work.

And others, like in finance.

It also depends on whether those who move away from (or would potentially have moved to) the Bay Area come back, especially if prices are a bit less eye-watering. Which to some degree depends on how badly restaurants, bars, retail, etc. are ultimately hit.

And just what the attitude towards urban living generally is. (This applies more specifically to SF than the Bay Area as a whole.) The urban inflow among college educated young professionals is only about 20 years old. No reason it couldn't reverse again.

> And others, like in finance.

The thing is though, there are huge shifts going on in how finance operates today and how it will be going forward in the future…

A lot of things that most people in various societies have not questioned for long time are being brought into the forefront of awareness because of the pandemic, but arguably have developing for many years now and have become the reality for people at the margins of various societies.

What confuses me is the home buying far outside urban areas. I understand that people will be working from home for 12 months, but buying a home an expensive transaction. If forced to go back to the office, these folks are looking at very long commute.

I assume they: 1) know for sure they can wfh permanently, 2) are betting they will be able to wfh permanently or 3) are willing to quit when asked to come back to the office.

I wonder whether some still assume that the real estate will mostly appreciate, and that they can liquidate later if things change? They may not consider that a reversal of WFH might drop those markets again and leave them feeling like today's SF landlords?

On the other hand, some destinations like Tahoe probably are good investments no matter which way WFH goes. As I understand it, that was an area that didn't really feel the previous housing crisis in 2008 either. And many buyers from the Bay Area may easily imagine they would hold their new mountain home even if they later move back to the city, whether as a low occupancy vacation home or to try to operate a rental...

protip: many SF residents can completely afford homes far outside urban areas.

They simply moved money from their brokerage account into the home.

The mortgage, if any, was small to them and is completely serviceable as they were saving for a mere downpayment on a SF or peninsula home, minimum downpayments are often 20% of the home value which would be close to $400,000 of $2,000,000. You typically want to reduce interest payments by putting larger percentages down.

They can sell the houses whenever they want and not lose anything or much. Its a store of value that also puts a roof over their head without having to pay someone else every month.

Isn’t this a case of the expectation creating the outcome. If half the employees bought homes outside commuting distance, what can the company do?

Seems like they’ll be forced to adopt remote first whether they like it or not. No company is going to be able to lay off half its workforce. The labor market for software engineers and most other professionals is still extremely tight. Until it’s otherwise, the workers are essentially in charge, and management will mostly have to accommodate.

It depends on the roll obviously, but I can see a company saying “hey everyone, 6 months from now we’ll all be in the office” and then deal with those who push back on an individual basis.

High performer who is hard to replace? Sure, we’ll be flexible.

Low performer with 10 people lined up, ready to take the role? If you’re not in the office on Monday, you’ll be fired.

And the thing that gets me is some of the booming housing markets are far away from jobs. Tahoe for example. If you can’t work from home, it’s unlikely you’ll find another job locally.

Who knows, maybe all these folks thought all this through and took the risk eyes wide open?

> Tahoe for example. If you can’t work from home, it’s unlikely you’ll find another job locally.

That’s the situation now, but after 1000 remote tech workers move there and 500 decide not to go back to the city, 100 might pivot to lifestyle startups that employ 100-200 more. And now you have a little incubator that wasn’t there before and might grow a nice little self-sustaining eco-system. And once it gets going, it can always rely on the nice geography to attract some talent, even if the cities become huge employment centers again.

In a way, I think this would be a very healthy development for these tourist towns. They are too dependent on tourism, and even when they were prosperous before Covid, they had issues with high property prices (due to empty second homes and Airbnb) and low service wages. Having a healthy middle class independent of tourism would be great for their economic stability.

That’s where i was heading with my question. I’m wondering if these folks have a plan B if asked to go back to the office.

If so, that’s great and we could see some pretty interesting changes to the demographics of small cities.

If they don’t have a plan B, well... that’s not good.

I’m in exactly this situation. Wife and I talk daily about whether we should roll the dice and move to a less inexpensive rural or vacation town and just hope my employer decides to continue WFH. So far we are too chicken to pull the trigger but we have the down payment all ready to spend if I ever grow a pair.

Work has been pretty cagey about what post-pandemic is going to look like. Nobody is outright saying we’re 100% coming back to office or we’re definitely going optional WFH forever. It’s this uncertain “wait and see” that keeps us from pulling the trigger on Tahoe or Redding or somewhere else way out there and less expensive.

If they ever make a clear decision: “WFH is optional for all employees” we put our house for sale that day.

This hits on one of the reasons why permanent remote vs. return to office is sometimes a contentious topic. In sufficient numbers, those in an area like tech who favor remote-mostly effectively have veto power over an aggressive return to in-person.

And, while I don't think people buying houses outside of commuting range did it for this reason, it is a clear signal that, if forced back to an office for other than sometimes trips, they'll leave.

I doubt that anywhere close to 50% of people are making long-distance moves, even the densest urban areas.

The real answer is a lot of people tolerate an awful hour plus one way commute if it means having a bigger house in a better school district.

Some companies have made statements. Others like mine, a lot of people were remote already. So, in some cases, it seems a pretty safe bet.

Now, of course, you are betting to some degree that remote work will continue to be sufficiently popular that you can switch jobs if need be. But the concentration of a certain type of job in the Bay Area actually isn't that representative of job density in general.

I think a lot of people _are_ assuming that the dynamic has permanently changed, and that WFH will be the default, or at least way more common, in their sector from now on.

I suspect that they may be incorrect, here.

> I suspect that they may be incorrect, here.

I’m curious why you’d think that? It will be over a year before many workplaces are in a position to end the WFH policies. A year is a long time, enough for cultures to adapt.

* edit: I mean over a year from the start of WFH policies in March-April of this year.

This assumes that wfh actually works out well for productivity, employee retention, etc. I don’t think it’s clear that that’s the case.

I may be biased; personally I can’t wait to be back in an office.

For retention it's hard to say. But so far the productivity numbers I've seen from a few companies range from slightly positive to slightly negative. Single digit percentage changes either way.

Wild that landlords having to deal with their investments losing value and having to negotiate a commercial transaction is "grim"

The market dynamics shifted. No big deal.

You have the same attitude when prices go up?

“Wild that tenants having to deal with rent going up and having to negotiate a commercial transaction is “grim””.

“The market dynamics shifted. No big deal.”

> You have the same attitude when prices go up?

No, but the people on the opposite side of the transaction (the landlords) for damn sure do. "Market price has gone up, what can you do" is something I've been told when trying to negotiate lease renewals, and I'm outside the Bay Area.

Landlords could, as a group, have pushed to help make pricing stable and make their investment a long-term, very secure asset. Instead, just like virtually every other part of this fire-encrusted economy, they grabbed for the short-term gains at the expense of plodding consistency. Landlord groups are pushing back on the idea that tenants should do anything except blithely pay whatever duly-increased price is passed onto us and we should thank them for the privilege besides.

My heart bleeds.

They could have pushed to stabilize the market?

The only reason it’s dropping is because of Covid. How could they have avoided a mass exodus due to a pandemic?

If the cost/benefit ratio was more in line with "reasonable living" versus "I'm putting up with this for three years to make bank and then getting the fuck out," that's one way.

Could landlords have completely forestalled people leaving? No. Could they, as a group, have done a lot more to actually agitate for--versus opposing--things like new housing to keep market prices stable (rather than a hockey stick) and worked with tenant groups to aim for a tenancy system that balances each group's needs more directly, rather than "rent consumes almost all available resources?" Yes.

Had landlords tried to work in concert with the people who provide the source of income for landlords, rather the opposing them at almost every turn, the "exodus" might be a rather expected "trickle."

They made their bed of housing scarcity in these possibly-former-hot markets...they can lie in it.

The landlords have used this kind of rhetoric for years, but now it's bad because landlords have gotten entitled to a market on the up and up.

I think there's a difference between needing a roof over your head vs needing to protect your investment portfolio.

Well, my landlord in SF was an old lady whose husband died suddenly at 50 and their retirement portfolio was their apartment building.

But screw her right?

How exactly is she screwed? She owns an apartment building. She can likely liquidate for multiple millions even in a down market and live in luxury for the remainder of her life AND pass on a ton of money to her heirs.

I'm sorry but most Americans retirement portfolio isn't an apartment complex in the most expensive city in the country. I'll find a bit more sympathy for them.

When it comes to human interest stories “most“ doesn’t matter. It’s all about the individual.

A retirement portfolio should be more diversified. It would be like investing all your 401k on company stock.

Landlords are investing so they have to accept some risk and downturns. I have much more sympathy for the tenants.

Yeah, no shit. You were careless with your capital and lost some or all of it? My heart bleeds.

They don't lose any capital until it's re-valued or sold. It's purely a short-term loss in income.

Eat the loss, move on -- that's what most landlords would tell their tenants in the opposite situation.

I am playing the world's smallest violin for them as a class.

I think a lot of people living in cities think there's only two options - living in an apartment downtown in a megacity, and living in a car-bound wasteland suburb.

But there's a third option - towns.

I know you have them in the US! I've been to a few of them. Walkable towns with coffee shops, restaurants, bars, culture, dating. You can even find a few in the Bay Area if you don't want to look too far.

Isn't the small town an icon of American living? Why are people so incredibly snobby about it?

I live in one (Shelburne Falls, Mass - https://shelburnefalls.com/).

Everything is in walking distance and most of the houses and buildings are 100+ years old (the town is on a river in a bowl of a valley so most of the buildable land ran out 100 years ago). We have a drug store with a soda fountain counter, a nice grocery store and a few nice restaurants and bookstores.

I moved here around 20 years ago after stints of living in Boston and Chicago after college. It has been a great place to raise kids but now that they are in their teens the main downside I'm seeing is the public high school options are sub-par compared to "magnet" schools available in cities. I don't think my kids are as ready for college as they would have been if we would have stayed in Boston. However, if we did want to drop the money there are a lot of world class private schools in the area.

We have been lucky enough to make sure to travel as the kids have grown so they don't become "townies". They have been on trips to England, Spain, France and Italy and many places in the US. We have also hosted two year-long exchange students so they realize there is a wider world out there. In my mind the biggest risk of raising kids in a small town is that they become provincial.

If anyone knows of places like this - I would love to know of them!

I've been spending embarrassing amounts of my time looking for a place to live that's like this, and I haven't found many that aren't just as expensive as the city for something that's comparably walkable / livable.

The only promising affordable towns with lots to do & decent weather that I've found are Silver City, Los Alamos, & Taos NM. And San Marcos TX looks promising, too.

Honestly, it seems like there's way more affordable houses in nice parts of big cities like Dallas, Houston, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Phoenix, etc.

And it seems like even hip medium sized cities like Bend Oregon and Boise Idaho are cheaper than the really cool small towns.

Totally agreed. I live in a fairly rural town with forested backyards, trees, canyons and creeks and it is only 7 miles from Oakland and 15 miles from SF. Even within Oakland and Berkeley you will find enclaves which feel very rural and quiet

What are some examples of Bay Area towns? It seems like everyone in my friend circle in tech lives in San Francisco and puts up (or used to) with the long commute.

Quite a few of the towns in the South Bay have walkable cores: Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Mateo...

You also have smaller cities all over the country.

Now, you get into truly small towns in places like New England and there really isn't a lot in the town center and it's unlikely you'll be living walking distance from it.

No way, man. You have to pay like $1.5 mil for a home in Palo Alto and Mountain View. You do all that and you get a glorified suburb. No way. The city is like 400x as city life for like 1.1x the price.

I would be shocked if one could find a liveable single family home in Palo Alto or Mountain View for $1.5M.

Last I looked empty lots went for that much.

By home, do you mean house? Sub-million dollar homes show up all the time in Mountain View, even before Covid. Thinking anything less than a house is unlivable for a family is not the norm in most other parts of the world.

I assumed you meant "single family home", but yes, you can find sub-$1M apartments.

By home-not-a-house, do you mean an apartment? Duplex? Tent?

Lol love how we're talking about the core cities of silicon valley as towns... have you guys even been there?

They have a town vibe only because they have essentially made development outside of office buildings impossible for decades. There is a ton of pent up demand to live there (meaning it's super, super expensive) and there is a lot of traffic and a surprising population density given the development pattern (because there are a LOT of people working there relative to living there). They're really all a contiguous metropolitan region of the Bay Area from SF-SJ-Oakland, the fact that they're separate political entities is at this point a historical relic

Come on, Mountain View’s downtown degrades into there-is-not-even-trees-to-shade-you after like two blocks sideways, and no grocery store. Palo Alto is better, but unless you live in downtown south you won’t be walking distance from a grocery store, and you can basically not walk for more than 20 minutes without being in boring ass McMansion suburbia.

> no grocery store

I can't tell if you forgot about Ava's, or if you've never actually _been_ to downtown Mountain View, or if you only consider chain supermarkets to count.

Suburbs, particularly old growth / inner ring suburbs, often have walkable cores and even rail connections to the city. They are not all the postwar Levittown kind.

“Town” as distinct from “suburb” usually implies standing alone, being surrounded by farmland and not particularly connected to the nearest metro area.

The towns in the peninsula are nice, even the smaller ones like Burlingame or even San Carlos. But apartment rents are barely cheaper there in SF for comparable nice units, and you’ll almost certainly need a car, and you of course lose many of the benefits of a big city like SF if you value those things.

I responded above, but look into Orinda, Lafayette, Moraga, Kensington, Albany. You can also north to Novato, San Rafael, Petaluma. Also, along the coast Pacifica, Moss Bay, Montarra, Half Moon Bay, Pescadero. I would also explore Oakland and Berkeley hills

Alameda comes to mind. Completely walkable, charming, great community feel. It's an island, so going over bridges or through the tube to go anywhere can be a bit of a hassle, but it's well worth it.

The pinball museum in Alameda is one of my favorite spots! I hope it survives the shutdown, they always seem to be operating on a shoestring budget. Super cool place if anyone hasn't checked it out before, highly recommend!

I second this, spent my birthday there last year and it was a blast!

Half Moon Bay for example looks like a nice little place? I had dinner there once passing through. Wasn't an Applebees.


Go much further north of the Bay and you can live in Yountville and I think you'll have a 3-star restaurant in your town, which is a level of culture you can't even get in most US megacities. Again not Applebees.


I doubt you want to live in Half Moon Bay unless your schedule allows you to get outside during the week and hunker down to avoid the weekend traffic when the weather is decent.

Yountville is nice and it's also dripping in wealth - if you aren't driving a Porsche and carrying a black AmEx you'll feel out of place.

They almost never have decent internet if you're someone trying to wfh. Most of them are POTS lines only. The ones that have muni fiber would be a possible option but you're making definite trade offs elsewhere. Pubtrans, bike lanes, food options, travel optins, etc.

Rural broadband is certainly an issue generally. But a lot of people seem to be under the impression that as soon as you leave the city limits of a major city, you're in the wilds of Wyoming. Somewhere like Massachusetts, there are a ton of towns and smaller cities not called Boston that have broadband.

We have about 98% coverage from Comcast here in Shelburne, MA (about 2 hours west of Boston). It kid of sucks because the towns with less coverage surrounding us got more MBI (https://broadband.masstech.org/) money and are building out fiber networks. MBI doesn't handle the last mile which means I can look out my office window at a town building that has a (dark) fiber line terminated inside it that MBI installed which may never be lit up.

I didn't know it was a big thing in MA. But thanks for letting me know, I'll check it out. I hope to go back to the NE/E in the next few years (Maine/VT/MA).

I tried to move to a small town this year, one that was woodsy and if possible in the mountains, AK, CO, WA, OR. My requirement was 100mb+ internet that didn't require me paying Spectrum $25k to cable another road. Honestly I would've been fine with DSL at a bunch of these places but they were almost all satellite only. I looked for about 3 months before I eventually just went to the city. But the market is insane right now, I did find some that were gone quickly.

There are 3 "towns" in CO that you can possibly get fiber at but without MLS/Trulia having that as a filter I spent a bunch of time checking zip codes for service and being let down.

Might I ask what line of work you're in that 100mb+ would be a limiting factor?

I ask because I've been doing remote work web development for 9 years now on a 10mb DSL line, and honestly haven't really seen much any need to go faster. Not at least work-related requirements.

I’m doing this exact search! What’s been your best resource for finding fiber? Are you plugging in addresses to the providers webpage?

Yeah I just type the zip in to each ISP I find in that area (another fun search).. it sucks. You eventually get rate limited and it will make you constantly change addresses, so just incognito mode it. Some of the ISPs will have the distribution maps but when you're looking at something not in a suburb you're kind of at the behest of the city or a recent neighbor having built out the infra in my experience (which is mostly south/texas/pnw). SOMETIMES theres a local WIFI provider.. I haven't gone that route I'm not sure the investment or quality there. I have done a lot of satellite, BGAN internet etc. I think now everybody is just giving up and waiting on 5G.

This is the muni fiber map https://muninetworks.org/communitymap

I really wish Trulia or one of them had some way to tie into ISPs and tell us whats there.

This improved my house search a LOT; Get the Clickup (no relation) extension and create a space to send your zillow/trulia/mls links to directly, there is a template for apartment searches [1] you can edit it and put in your own fields - it basically grabs a snapshot of different keys and you can add columns and rows and start to quickly grab house listings then filter with your own database. It's stupid simple, like airtable, you can probably use that too. I added ISP sections, stars, comments.. All the real estate apps are terrible for critiquing en masse.

I never got around to checking if the ISPs have apis you can interface with..

I'm going to NEXT year try the mountain thing again.

[1]: https://clickup.com/teams/personal

edit: Wow this link is looking positive, I didnt realize there were so many 500Mbps+ connections https://broadbandnow.com/fastest-cities

edit2: Oh, another stupid ISP tip, the business ends will usually be WAY more lenient if you open your wallet. If you cant get X cable, try to get X cable biz they'll happily run a line down a pole for a new $200/mo customer, I've done it in desperation. You don't need to be an actual biz, just tell them youre hackernewsman LLC and they'll sign you up if they can.

thank you for such a detailed reply!

Tons of towns in the Puget Sound region have gigabit. For example, Wave services Union, Shelton, and Belfair.

That's not true. Except for rural areas, most of the US has broadband internet, typically from their cable company.

I don't consider internet via coaxial cable with 300mbps download and 5mbps upload to be broadband. It's probably split between too many houses, and they boost your bandwidth to 300mbps for a minute or two to make it seem like it's fast, but they won't sustain it.

I also don't trust the economic incentives of a company that makes more money selling media than it does proper broadband service.

Dealing with fiber to the home providers is much nicer, with symmetric 1Gbps down and up connections. You can feel the connection is much snappier, have multiple FacetimeHD and HD video streams going, and you don't even notice. And I can stream from my devices at home when I'm away because there is actually available upload bandwidth.

You're not wrong, I forget the Gov calls 100Mbps broadband (thankfully up from 10Mbps). I wasn't specific enough. I personally, and I do move every few years to new States/Cities (and recently trying to move to smaller mountain/woodsy towns) and wfh and have to actually have 100Mbps+ internet or I think I'll melt. Most of the towns I looked were vdsl/DSL only except for a few who had gone the muni route or had an executive from Xfinity living there.

300mb+ is still pretty hard to get outside of cities.

I've actually spent ~$20k before to get Spectrum to cable an old house in the middle of a huge city.

If only. Despite having a franchise agreement to make service available at every residence in town, it's impossible to actually get broadband at many homes here.

I just cut a large check and signed some papers to be the first community fiber island here, with a microwave link to get us service.

Los Altos Hills, CA

You’re also living in a prime wildfire area in Truckee. There’s too much fuel in the Sierras as it is, it’ll burn sooner or later.

The picture of a house they show nestled in the trees is incredibly dangerous, incredibly resource intrnsive, and just ecologically unsound.

We need to be building massive amounts of housing in city centers to let as many people live in them that would like to. Instead we lock down any new construction in cities, which requires the least amount of infrastructure and environmental damage, and instead let pretty much anybody build in ecologically disastrous ways.

California is ruled at the local level, where decisions like this are made, by an older generation of conservatives that have convinced themselves that their personal pastoral aesthetic preferences of cars and suburbs and low density sprawl that consumes vast amounts of wilderness is somehow conservationist. It’s a massive problem!

Housing density is not generally a problem outside of the United States. Developing economies seem to have no bias against dense housing. I think this is because there is no politically powerful land owning class outside of the United States. So it is in the interest of the majority to have an abundance of affordable housing. This protects against global warming too.

Housing density is definitely a problem outside of the United States. Many countries handle it in much the same way, while others handle it by shoving their working class into what's basically a human rights violation. I've seen discussions of Singapore's good housing policy, for example, that fail to mention the worker dormitories with 10 or 20 people per room.

I certainly wouldn't claim the US has good housing policy, but there's no perfect solution to the conflict that arises when the market-clearing housing price in an area creeps above what most people can pay.

Have you seen how the working class lives in the U.S.? It's honestly not much different than a developing country. Multiple families in a tiny apartment is common in places like LA. People hold full time jobs while going back home to a tent on the sidewalk. Tenement conditions are very real in the U.S., and invisible for the most part by anyone fortunate enough not to live in them.

LA doesn’t represent the entire U.S. Most of the US, especially outside of the west coast and NYC, has plenty of housing. US median income is 64k and median home price is 310k. Most of those are 1500+ sqft SFH easily afforded by the working class.

We really need to better price the negative externalities that come with these different choices into the market. Massive price increases for fossil fuels are an obvious step.

I agree, but if we have no alternatives to current development styles, then taxes can not correct the bad practices. We literally outlaw the alternatives to building in the WUI.

Agreed. I think those regulations cause so many societal problems, many of which are quite indirect and I am sure many of us don't realize. For example the decline of rural areas would be less of a problem if it would be a real alternative for people to find a better fortune elsewhere, but prices make this impossible unless you are already well off.

> We need to be building massive amounts of housing in city centers to let as many people live in them that would like to.

All else being equal, Americans will choose to live in a detached house on a 1/2 acre lot with an SUV or pickup in the driveway.

I'd argue the 90k or so living on the street in a tent or their car in LA will be happy with any room of their own with a lock and some real privacy. That sort of housing is popular for the people who can afford an SUV to go in the driveway, but there are people who can't even afford any sort of housing right now.

This is simply untrue. Some people will, but this sort of “everybody who doesn’t want what I want is lying to themselves” is elitism that destroys people’s chances to live th way they prefer.

The higher cost of living in cities is pretty strong evidence that city living is under supplied compared to suburban living.

You can argue back and forth whether people in flyover country hate the idea of living in dense housing or not. But if you peruse city and county planning documents you find that most places it's completely illegal to build greenfield projects with urban density. Instead of being able to build 25-35 units an acre you're allowed 3-4. And no mixed use allowed.

Seems to me the answer is people don't get a choice a most places. Would people outside of old dense cities want to live in a walkable mixed use development? We have no idea because those have been banned since before WWII.

How is it untrue?

The proportion of Americans living in urban counties (31%) has not changed in 20 years. The proportion living in suburban counties has increased slightly (53% to 55%) [1]

The proportion of new vehicle sales that are SUVs or pickups has been steadily climbing for over 30 years [2]

> The higher cost of living in cities is pretty strong evidence that city living is under supplied compared to suburban living.

Is that true for all cities or just a few large ones? I don’t see how you can conclude that. The narrower conclusion is that demand for city housing exceeds supply in a few key markets.

> this sort of “everybody who doesn’t want what I want is lying to themselves” is elitism that destroys people’s chances to live th way they prefer.

You have apparently without irony proved my point.

My broader point is that rather than force people to do things that they apparently don’t want to do (move to dense housing, ditch or downsize their vehicles) we should seek ways to invest in the efficiency of our existing housing stock, and provide incentives to improve the efficiency of new vehicles. A carbon tax also looks like a promising approach.

[1] https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/05/22/demographic-and-e...

[2] https://www.epa.gov/automotive-trends/highlights-automotive-...

The people advocating dense inner-city housing for everyone don't plan to make it a choice. They know better than the rest of us, you see.

Come on now, Truckee is half second homes - the resource intensiveness is based on gluttony not existence of housing.

A 2000 sq ft home in Truckee, be it a second home or a primary home, is going to require far more roads, more vehicle miles travelled, require cutting down far more trees, more heating and cooling, more water and waste water infrastructure than a 2000 sq ft apartment in a city.

That not to say that we should ban all Truckee homes on long roads like we ban apartments in cities, but we should definitely legalize apartments cities. And rural Truckee tree consuming development should be highly controlled and taxed in proportion to the amount of public money that needs to be spent trying to protect these fire traps.

Yeah, there's no way the public should spend anything trying to save the house pictured in TFA. The owner who can afford that house can certainly afford to cut some trees. The trees weren't cut, so the house must not be very valuable to anyone.


> A generation of conservatives

Very true, even though they convinced themselves and everyone else that they were progressives and environmentalists, just because they don't hate minorities and they like the vibe of trees. (Not to downplay the importance of socially progressive measures, but it's one dimension and they are very conservative on most other dimensions).

I don't disagree at all, but would like to point out a dark streak of nastiness in some of the older crowd. The funny thing is that there's not much of a good history for racial justice from this style of "environmentalist," quite the opposite in fact. Lots of eugenics and white supremacy in the past [1] which has changed into "population control" (of whom?) these days. A lot of it seems, to me, to center on allowing wealthy white individuals to live in isolation without having to be around other people, and the "environment" becomes about preserving their privilege.

[1] https://www.sierraclub.org/articles/2020/06/it-s-past-time-d...

> We need to be building massive amounts of housing in city centers to let as many people live in them that would like to.

How many people would ‘like’ to live in a city centre if they didn’t have to for work?

> How many people would ‘like’ to live in a city centre if they didn’t have to for work?

I think this is a very personal thing. I wouldn't consider living far from a city centre, work or no work, personally. Some people love outer suburbs or the country, and that's fine; just wouldn't be for me.

I would! And I’m constantly surprised at the number of people that don’t like cities that assume that everybody else just must be like them somehow.

Cities are expensive because they attract lots of people to them because lots of people prefer them. So when you say “how many” the answer is clearly far more people Han are currently allowed to live there. We should build in cities until it’s cheaper to live in them than it is to live in less environmentally friendly ways.

> We need to be building massive amounts of housing in city centers to let as many people live in them that would like to

A model/example where this has been done well?

I hear this all the time, but if you build more dense versions of the cities/towns we have now, it'll be miserable. Thin-walled apartment homes built along narrow-sidewalks without proper public spaces and reasonable bike/pedestrian zones, etc.

I think the resistance comes from not showing the grand plan around these kinds of in-fill demands. I can't imagine living in the American version of them, and I've lived (happily) in the dense(r) city centers of Amsterdam, Berlin and Brooklyn.

I've also lived in SF -- never again. It's a terrible version of urban development.

> I hear this all the time, but if you build more dense versions of the cities/towns we have now, it'll be miserable. Thin-walled apartment homes built along narrow-sidewalks without proper public spaces and reasonable bike/pedestrian zones, etc.

So we...don't do that. Bluntly speaking, it's trivial: all of these issues are of our own making in America. We have hundreds of examples just in Europe of how to make car-lite, walkable, nice cities and towns and that's just on a single continent. And that's artificially restricting ourselves to a single continent with societies that look the most like ours. A quick pivot to most of eastern Asia will show much more variety in how to build those areas.

(I will pause here and throw right out the idea that "Europe is much smaller than the United States so we couldn't possibly..." There is no reason we cannot duplicate those same cityscapes all across the United States; we have sub-national states and counties for a reason.)

We are car-centric and spread out because we choose to be. So we either change those choices and make the commensurate political and financial changes to go along with it, or we don't and we accept the consequences of things like "large swaths of the West Coast burn to the ground" and "we are stuck in our metal boxes powered by carbon fuels or batteries backed by precious rare earth minerals." We already spent a couple trillion dollars propping up the stock market for nothing more than paper gains; the argument that we "can't afford it" is laughable.

The resistance comes from a tiny number of people, and is not representative of the majority. Blocking the wants of the people requires subversion of democracy and subversion of the housing market by a few very wealthy and connected and powerful people.

California and many other states’ governance has enabled a small number of people to veto what the majority wants. For example, all of SF’s safe streets program during the pandemic have been held up by the actions of only two people [1]. Two people subverting changes that are wildly popular just because is is change rather than maintaining the status quo. Similarly, Minneapolis’ legalization of triplexes city wide is popular with a majority of the city, [2] but during the government process the representation was quite different, and unrepresentative of the city. Yet that unrepresentative process is somehow considered “democratic”.

My question to you is that, if you don’t like living in SF, why are you interested unmaking sure others can’t live there? Do you assume they don’t like it? Do you assume that you know what’s in their best interests?

Sooooo may people love living in SF, in fact almost everybody who lives there loves it. It works well for them. Let the people that love it enjoy it. It will leave suburbia emptier for those who prefer suburbia.

[1] https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/heatherknight/article/Sa...

[2] https://int.nyt.com/data/documenttools/crosstabs-MN-NH-NV-WI...

The people who love SF don’t seem to want it SF-ier, otherwise these proposals would pass (I’ve also lived in Cow Hollow and Bernal Heights).

I work in the city with SFers. They all complain incessantly about their apartments, the noise, the commute, etc.

People in SF, commuting by Bart or bike for 20-30 minutes, complaining to coworkers who spend 50-80 minutes on Bart commuting in from San Ramon and Walnut Creek. Singles in SF don’t seem to understand what dual income, 1-2 kids might want. It’s not SF (not school lotteries, yes to playgrounds).

If it was so great, selling more of it should be easier.

And I know about the two people blocking slow streets... not the same NIMBY story as infill housing nobody is convinced will be great.

Update: There have been a few responses to my OP. No stated examples of where infill housing plus better urban planning have yielded the improvements that the SF infill crowd are trying to sell. It needs a master plan, which doesn’t seem likely from SF governance.

There's an appeal to the SFR, not going to lie, but my flat in London was absolutely great. Massive concrete on the river, couldn't hear either of my neighbours unless we were both out on our balconies, access to city life.

Nah, man, cities can be awesome. London is an example. Love it there.

I wonder how sustainable this is. Part of this is obviously going to remain but I can see a big swing in the other direction saying employees and groups need to be together to generate the feeling of a team and that remote work doesn't give you that.

That’s likely true. But it's probably cheaper to fly the entire company and their families to a ski resort every quarter, then it is to pay for Bay Area cost-of-living and office space.

We're "fantasizing" about relocating from Silicon Valley for our USA home (we spend about 5 months/year overseas) but we've always thought it would be foolish to stay in California because of the tax situation. If you could live anywhere, a more tax friendly / less income-hostile state would be a good idea. (However, if your employer is in CA, good luck not having California try to collect anyway. They even are proposing a "wealth tax" that would apply retroactively to people who left in the past 10 years!)

I live in western Wyoming and the market (which was already pretty bad) has been flooded by people trying to just get away from the city.

Winter will certainly spit the "softer" folks out, but it will be interesting to see what sticks.

To the point about making less for remote work... You don't need 200k to have a very high QOL in most these places (assuming you value an outdoor lifestyle).

I would personally take a 50% pay cut before I'd consider moving to the city for a 50% raise.

"Still over 7% of active mortgages are in forbearance,"

This seems incredibly concerning, and could suggest an especially hard market in the coming months/year.

Ah, Truckee. Really, NPR should've lumped Western Nevada into the article as well. I left Nevada in the mid 2010's, but housing prices were well above their Recession lows. Now I look at houses in that area on Trulia, and the prices just seem to go forever upwards. Scenic mountain views + no income tax on the Nevada side + remote work + Tesla moving in = housing boom.

I think the concept of a “Zoom town” is important vs a “Zoom hamlet.” It’s a lot easier to work with a remote 50 person engineering team than 50 remote engineers, because you can just interface with the head of the group and his/her direct reports. So I think long term 2nd tier cities will get engineering hubs but the fully remote concept will remain niche.

Talking about house prices, saying something about less supply, but not fully comparing the volume of sales is IMO very misleading.

Curious what will happen to prices in these zoom towns once people return to office work? Wouldn't it be more prudent to shop around in areas where we know people will return in a year or two?

Probably depends whether or not there is a ski resort nearby to sustain property values. reasonably convenient lots to the resort would eventually all be infilled, at which point prices would surge exponentially. Otherwise it's an overpriced mountain lodge, and mountain lodge supply increases exponentially.

So a pandemic hits and everyone screaming NIMBY is suddenly moving out?

Can we stop referring to anything video conference related as “zoom”?

Can we please call these bed-Zoom communities? ;)

"Many Americans — especially 30-somethings who remain employed — are ditching their tiny rental apartments in hip districts of expensive cities and moving to buy houses in more affordable cities or the burbs for a life of shopping at Home Depot and spending their Friday nights eating mozzarella sticks at Applebee's."

oof, that's a savage take for NPR.

Who cares about NPR elitism. Why shame people for doing what they want.

Hell, the Buffalo Wild Wings in Daly City has a more diverse crowd than any bar or restaurant in SF.

Better mozzarella sticks, too, not that that's a high bar. It's not an accident they called out Applebee's by name. They knew what they were doing.

Buffalo Wild Wings followed the same pattern as any other rapidly expanding chain - start with an okay product, get name recognition, expand quickly with excessive financing, and then cut costs (and hence quality) while milking the brand's original reputation.

I'm sure a few people cashed out along the way.

Honestly, BWW had the best tap lineup in my area for a long time, which has no shortage of trendy bars.

The first time I walked into a BWW (maybe 10 or 15 years ago) my eyes opened wide when I saw all the taps.

My excitement wore off when I realized that it was literally all budweiser products and most of them had the exact same thing.

Ah yea. Good beers took a while to come to my area (maybe 5-10 years ago). I'm guessing other parts of the country might have been a little different, especially as Big Beer tried to catch the craft wave and smaller breweries didn't have any distribution yet. Maybe it's different now in most areas (hopefully)

I live(d?) in SF and would on occasion rent a car just to drive to Buffalo Wild Wings :)

Too true.

...for a life of shopping at Home Depot and spending their Friday nights eating mozzarella sticks at Applebee's, with their families.

I added that bit.

Funny, they always seem to forget about family, even when talking about 30-somethings from hip rental apartments.

replacing a wide and healthy social net with the family is probably one of the largest cultural diseases of American life of the last few decades

In a less abstract sense, roughly 50% of my close friends who did the the whole "move to the burbs, ditch the social life, start a family" and who seemed to go missing for years are now divorced. Roughly in line with the statistics I suppose.

I'd go as far as saying that in the majority of cases when people in their 20s or 30s do this it's some sort of mix of social pressure and biological clock panic than an actual authentic decision.

The number of friends you can count on as much as family is abysmally small. How many of your wide social net friends will be there for you in old age? Often times just a little move or a job change is enough to completely shake up your friend group, but family is a constant. That constancy is crucial for a fulfilling life.

>The number of friends you can count on as much as family is abysmally small. How many of your wide social net friends will be there for you in old age?

I personally hopefully a lot because I pay a lot of attention to cultivate them. My grandparents throughout their entire life had a rich social life up until the very end with friendships lasting decades, they even lived entirely autonomously in a cooperative community for the elderly.

It's my parents, who are now 60-ish, who have no friends. Because unlike my grandparents they grew up in what was peak nuclear family era. I'm not repeating that mistake and it's pretty sad that people here don't even seem to be able to imagine authentic communal life.

> “A wide and healthy social net”

On the contrary, we’ve never been more lonely and distant as a society. Family gives you a chance of a more permanent safety net and nuclear community. Friends and community are important, but today’s version of these things appears flimsy at best.




>On the contrary, we’ve never been more lonely and distant as a society.

yes, because all communal institutions have been disbanded before millennials were even born, that was the point?

Millenials are lonely because they're the offspring of what was the peak of the nuclear family generation. They're growing up without any communal connection, increasingly without religious communities, Gen Z probably doesn't even have military experience and has largely replaced physical with digital connections and seems to be even more isolated than Millenials.

The nuclear family isn't safety but the last escape hatch in the absence of institutions that should enrich people's personal life beyond the family.

That's weird because the nuclear family is as old as civilization and the idea of wide social nets that span long distances is relatively new. For vast majority of human history we lived in small tribes and then the family became the tribe to belong to within a civilization. Virtually any institution you could point to is less than a few generations from being mainstream meanwhile family is timeless. I get that some people come from dysfunctional families but that does not discount the rule that by and large they are the strongest source of emotional support and stability. And really, as I've gotten older I've come to appreciate that more and more.

This isn't actually true at all. The extended family is the historically most long lasting form of organisation, people banding together in communities of about 100-150 people, sharing responsibility and living in multi-generational environments.

This was the case until very recently in fact. The nuclear family is largely an abberation brought on by the commercialisation of what used to be the job of a village. David Brooks wrote an excellent piece on the development (in the US in particular) not long ago:


The dysfunction you're speaking about is actually a result of that very same dynamic. Largely affluent upper-middle classes have replaced the extended family with professional services and shrunk the family unit down. It's poor people and minority communities who, lacking those resources, have suffered the most from the breakdown of the extended family.

The "nuclear family" is an extremely modern concept.The extended family is what is old as civilization itself.Sure, nuclear families existed 5000 years ago. But, it was far more common to live with your extended family.

I went to an Applebee's for the first time in 10 years recently and I... liked it. I swore it off as an uppity 20-something.

That said, I've been living in a fairly urban 'burb with a nice downtown for almost 10 years. It's nice to actually have space to park a couple of cars and hang in your backyard amid some level of quiet.

My personal experience is that when you're younger, city life has its charms. When you find yourself full-on adulting with kids, the burbs (and Applebee's) actually sound pretty nice.

Mozz-eater who frequents Home Depot checking in. I thought it was funny.

I like shopping at Home Depot and feel mildly attacked by this.

...spending their Friday nights eating mozzarella sticks at Applebee's.

One won't be surprised by the spike in suicides a few years later...

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