Despite the housing crash, many Americans still find themselves in a position where homeownership is unaffordable to them.
My colleague Andy Kiersz recently published the following map, based on data from Zillow, showing where middle class homebuyers are totally screwed.
The darker the patch, the greater percentage of one’s earnings an average middle-income earner would have to devote to a mortgage.
As you can see, the coasts are the worse, especially California. The East Coast is also really bad, especially the Northeast.
There are all kinds of ideas for making homes more affordable, including adding significantly to the housing stock of our big cities, so that any supply/demand imbalance can be alleviated.
That’s one solution. Another solution is to just have more people do what LeBron James just did, which is to leave the coast and head inland, where things don’t look nearly so bad.
In his latest column at the NYT, Ross Douthat sounds hopeful that more talented professionals will do just that, reversing the trend of elites going to the cities:
And the return of the King is also a reminder that social trends, like careers, aren’t arrows that fly in one direction only. As real estate prices rise insanely on the coasts, as telecommuting becomes more plausible for more people, as once-storied cities hit bottom and rebound … well, there could be more incentives for less-extraordinary professionals to imitate this heartland native’s unexpected return.
At the very least there’s nothing written that says we have to come apart forever. Or that some Americans with less extraordinary but still substantial gifts can’t find a way, like LeBron, to take those talents home again.
Obviously, LeBron James is an edge case, because he’s guaranteed to make ridiculous amounts of money and have massive fame wherever he goes. But there are other highly talented people who could make themselves successful anywhere there go. And if they went to places like Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, and elsewhere, they’d find housing to be much less of an issue.
Getting migration trends to change is going to run into a collective-action problem. But that’s the case for everything good in the world.
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