If I could take my salary and move to most other states, I’d be doing pretty well. I could afford a house roughly double in size in pretty much any neighborhood I chose. That means I wouldn’t have to worry as much about public education or commuting 45 miles each way.
But in California, I’m making marginally above what experts call a “modest” standard of living, reports the Los Angeles Times on a new study by the California Budget Project. A family of four, for example, “needs an annual income of $71,377 to cover basic costs of housing, utilities, child care, transportation, food, health coverage, taxes and miscellaneous expenses, without any public assistance and extras such as vacations and retirement savings,” writes the Times.
While it comes as no surprise to this dad that we’re just floating above water, it is good to see an organization quantify just how close to the edge middle-class families perch. Actually, we’re in better shape than the hypothetical family of four because they’re forced to rent as a result of the inflated housing market. At least we purchased our home before the market locked us out.
Another way to quantify just how badly the middle class is being squeezed is the proliferation of cities offering public housing to middle-class families, reports The New York Times. This is because many families, which have a combined income in the six figures, can’t live in desirable communities such as Marin County, CA, or Burlington, VT.
So communities are using a variety of strategies – such as allowing denser housing or complex financing schemes – to make some homes affordable. Imagine, families in this country making $110,000 a year and needing help buy a home. It’s nuts.
And while there are signs the housing market it starting to slow down, prices have yet to retrench by any meaningful amount. As Mark, a recent commenter on my site writes: “As someone hoping to be able to stop renting sometime in the next decade, all I can say is ... bring on the housing crash!!!”
I certainly can understand this frustrated person’s dream. And for those of you who ask why people like myself don’t move, the answer is simple: I would endure a 50 percent to 60 percent pay cut by leaving this area. That means I wouldn’t be much better off once relocated. Sigh.