Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The High Cost of Housing

“The rent is too damn high”, quips one of the more outrageous SNL sketch characters. I frankly have to agree. My search for a new lower cost abode has been fruitless thus far. My must haves in a new house include: approximately 1,000 square feet, two bedrooms, laundry or hookups in the unit, and located within my current area in a relatively safe, comfortable neighborhood. My wants include: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1200 or more square feet, a garage, and within walking distance to my daughter’s school and the village. I have yet to find even a single hit with the must haves within our price range.

The average two-bedroom, 1 bath 1960’s-70’s walk-up apartment with maybe a swimming pool, and coin laundry is at least $1200 per month. Yikes! The salary needed to afford that less than desirable apartment is approximately $50,000 a year. We hear a lot about lifestyle inflation. The expensive vacations, lattes, and designer clothes are supposedly keeping the two working parent family busy. Hardly. It is the necessities: housing, utilities, transportation, and food that is making mom keep 9am to 5pm and a 5pm to 11pm jobs. The latter is the “second shift” at home in case that’s not clear.

I live in the same area where my parents grew up. Just a few miles down the road is a subdivision that my grandparents bought a house in when my mom was a little girl. They bought a brand spanking new 3-bedroom, 1 bath house on my grandmother’s salary working retail at a department store and my grandfather’s off and on again jobs. Fast forward fifty years, my husband and I are priced out of that subdivision even though it has aged, and the houses need quite a bit of work. Did I mention that my husband and I both have Master’s degrees in our fields? My grandmother had a teaching degree that she never used, and my grandfather only finished some college.

Okay, so it’s clear. Housing is expensive. What are we going to do about it? Here is the kicker. I have no idea. My current options are to stay in our current house avoiding the transition costs of moving, or find something that meets our needs but is more than we want to spend, or adjust our needs. I did find a decent looking house yesterday for rent $200 cheaper per month than we are currently paying. The house appears to meet all of our needs except that it is $150 more than we were planning on spending at a new place. It also isn’t half as nice as our current place.

So I spent some time pondering this last night while searching the almighty internet for answers to my quandary, when I ran across this blog: http://www.pennilessparenting.com. This extremely frugal family moved from a “spacious” 700 square foot home to a 500 square foot home to save $100 a month. It definitely put some things in perspective for me. I still don’t think I want to live in a 700 square foot much less a 500 square foot home with my husband and two daughters. Perhaps, though, the average 2 bedroom apartment isn’t so bad after all.

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