The Mines

There’s a literary trope in which an ambitious young man goes to work in the mines for a few years to earn an income with which to go back home. In the US it’s bundled into narratives of the Wild West (where incomes were very high until well into the 20th century), but it also exists elsewhere. For example, in The House of the Spirits, the deuterotagonist (who owns an unprofitable hacienda) works in the mines for a few years to earn enough money to ask to marry a society woman. The tradeoff is that working in the mines is unpleasant and dangerous, which is why the owners have to pay workers more money.

More recently, the same trope has applied in the oil industry. People who work on oil rigs, which as a rule are placed in remote locations, get paid premiums. Remote locations with oil have high incomes and high costs in North America, but even the Soviet Union paid people who freely migrated to Siberia or the far north extra. The high wages in this industry are especially remarkable given that the workers are typically not university-educated or (in the US) unionized; they cover for poor living conditions, and a hostile environment especially for families.

I bring up this background because of conditions that I’ve heard second-hand in San Francisco. When I first heard of university-educated adults living several to a bedroom, I assumed that it was a result of extremely high rents and insufficient incomes. But no: I am told a reasonably transit-accessible two-bedroom in San Francisco proper is $5,500 a month at market rate, which is affordable to a mid-level programmer at a large tech firm living alone or to entry-level programmers (or non-tech professionals) living one to a bedroom.

And yet, I’ve heard of Google programmers living two to three to a bedroom in Bernal Heights, not even that close to BART. I’ve also heard a story of people near the Ashby BART stop in Berkeley renting out their front porch; the person sleeping the porch was not a coder, but some of the people living inside the house were.

I have not talked to the people in these situations, only to friends in Boston who live one person (or one couple) to a bedroom, even though they too can afford more. As I understand it, they treat the Bay Area as like working in the mines. They earn a multiple of the income they would in other industries with their education and skills, and have no particular ties to the region. (Some East Coasters have taken to use the expression “drain to the Bay,” complaining that friends in tech often end up leaving Boston for San Francisco.) The plan is to save money and then retire in their 30s, or take a lower-paying job in a lower-cost city and start a family there.

Overcrowding is not normal in San Francisco. The American Community Survey says that 6.7% of city housing units have more than one person per room (look up the table “percent of occupied housing units with 1.01 or more occupants per room”); it’s actually below state average, which is 8.3%. Some very poor people presumably have more overcrowding, especially illegal immigrants (who the census tends to undercount). Figuring out overcrowding by demographic from census data is hard: the ACS reports crowding levels by public use microdata area (PUMA), a unit of at least 100,000 people, and the highest crowding in San Francisco (13.7%) is in the SoMa and Potrero PUMA, which covers both the fully gentrified SoMa area and poorer but gentrifying areas of the Mission. But it’s conceivable that crowding levels among tech workers are comparable to those of the working-class residents of the Mission that they displace.

People endure this overcrowding only when they absolutely need to for work. In a situation of extremely high production amenities (that is, a tech cluster that formed in Silicon Valley and is progressively taking over the entire Bay Area), comfort is not a priority. Joel Garreau’s The Nine Nations of North America describes people in San Francisco viewing the city as utopian for its progressive lifestyle, temperate climate, and pretty landscape. Today, the middle class views the city as a dystopia of long commutes, openly antisocial behavior, human feces on sidewalks, poor schools, and car break-ins.

Moreover, the present housing situation makes sure the city’s comfort levels (that is, consumption amenities) will keep deteriorating. The tech industry so far keeps growing, adding more people to a city that’s not building enough housing to accommodate this growth. High incomes are paying for public services through increased sales tax receipts, but the money has to then be spent on extra services to people rendered homeless by rising rents and on ever higher salaries for teachers to keep up with living costs for families. Overall, a homogeneously rich place like some Silicon Valley suburbs has low public-sector costs, but during the decades long process of gentrification and replacement of the working class by the middle class costs can rise even amidst rising incomes.

The mines are not a stable community. They are not intended to be a community; they’re intended to extract resources from the ground, regardless of whether these resources are tangible like oil or intangible like tech. There may be some solidarity among people who’ve had that experience when it comes to specifics about the industry (which they tend to support, viewing it as the source of their income) or maybe the occasional issue of work conditions. But it’s not the same as loyalty to the city or the region.

33 comments

  1. watsonbladd

    Maybe if the region didn’t bitch so much about the people who pay for their social services, provided housing at affordable prices for those same people, and had adequate public services for the taxes there would be more loyalty. My friends who are planning to move out aren’t planning to move out because they don’t like it, but they see no way to stay and raise a family compared to retiring to a better part of the country.

  2. Untangled

    Sounds like Perth in Western Australia a while back, it’s now all come crashing back down and everyone is fleeing the city. Considering the house prices used to rival Sydney and Melbourne, the prices are a lot better now. A lot of the engineers who used to work on mines in Western Australia (based in Perth) have moved to the east coast where they’re helping with the infrastructure boom. Now with the mines gone, the WA is now pumping lots of money into infrastructure but there’s a shortage there because everyone’s fleed to the east coast and there’s more than enough work on the east coast. At least their plans are pretty ambitious, it has to be considering it’ll overtake Brisbane to become Australia’s 3rd largest city soon (just as Melbourne will overtake Sydney).

      • Michael James

        Yeah, nah.
        Brisbane is Oz’s third city and will be for probably as far ahead as you want to look. The predictions about Perth took its transient high growth during the peak of the recent mining boom and extrapolated it to 2060. Silly. Especially since a lot of that growth was during the establishment phase; the operational phase employs far fewer people. Indeed the gigantic railways with trains carrying a million tonnes of iron ore are now run remotely by some geek in front of a screen in Perth (or even Sydney).
        Brisbane is the centre of a much more diversified economy (though also affected by mining downturns but nothing like Perth), and especially when you consider the “200 kilometre city” that includes the endless sprawl up the coast, north to the Sunshine coast and south to the Gold Coast (and actually to Byron Bay).

        Incidentally, for those wondering: In Australia the mines are seriously far from population centres. The industry relies on FIFO workers, ie. Fly-In, Fly-Out. Workers fly in to do 2 weeks (of non-stop) then fly back home for 1 week off. Mining doesn’t actually employ large workforces, once a mine is established, and it is estimated the total number of FIFOs are 75,000-90,000. They get seriously well paid for this, and it can be good if they carefully manage their incomes. However, it also provokes problems such as very high marriage breakdowns, high drug abuse and those high incomes lead to over-commitment on mortgages. This windfall wealth of the miners naturally caused the crazy property boom in Perth but as Untangled wrote: it’s all over at the first sign of a mining downturn. Those who only bought in in recent years will be trapped in negative equity and those who bought early enough might be ok (if their marriages survive all this turmoil) but may not have joy if they really need to sell their property.
        It got so crazy that some FIFO workers chose to live in Bali because it is closer than Perth and both property and living cost is really low compared to crazy Perth (and living conditions and standards can be very good in Bali for foreigners who retain a western income). In fact I have met other foreign miners (executives in this case) in the oil industry in SE Asia who moved to Bali from Singapore for the similar reasons.

        http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/miners-stake-claim-in-bali/story-e6frg6z6-1226665259182
        Miners stake claim in Bali
        BY: DEBORAH CASSRELS, June 18, 2013

        THE resources boom may be running out of steam, but it’s business as usual for long-time West Australian fly-in, fly-out miner Paul Davies. Away from the dusty site and punishing work roster he left nine hours ago in the Pilbara, Davies, 35, is well into relaxation mode at his Bali home. Encircled by lush tropical vegetation, the Busselton-born miner lazes beside his swimming pool. His supervisor role at Fortescue Metals’ iron ore producer Solomon Hub is almost a distant memory as he sinks into a comfy chair and work stress dissolves.

        “Those people who live in Melbourne and Brisbane won’t get home ’til 7 the next morning,” he says, savouring his relatively snappy commute.

        About 50,000 FIFO employees work in WA; and with 97 flights weekly between Perth and Bali those tempted by Indonesia’s cheap, tropical lifestyle are well served. While official figures are not available (most FIFO workers in Bali are on tourist visas, staying just a couple of weeks at a time) they are thought to number in the hundreds.

  3. Cirratus

    SF sounds like an extreme case, but more moderate examples of this mindset are quite ubiquitous. In France, for example, many young teachers that prepare the competitive and national exam to become “fonctionnaires” know that they will be likely be assigned to the Paris region as their first posting and see this as another necessary hardship. They usually go for a few years, live in shared apartments, and leave at the first occasion – so the next generation will be sent to take their places.

    • Michael James

      Cirratus, 2018/09/25 – 08:28

      they will be likely be assigned to the Paris region as their first posting and see this as another necessary hardship. They usually go for a few years, live in shared apartments ..

      Hmm. I last lived in Paris in the 90s so I suppose these things could have changed … but no, this doesn’t ring true. First, postings in Paris are highly sought-after as there has been a official devolution (beginning in 70s), especially of any jobs/positions in the power of government, to the provinces; ie. “first postings” are much more likely to be in the provinces. This led to the term “turbo-profs” for teachers (or others; a doctor friend of mine did it) assigned to the provinces but who travel back to Paris on weekends (mostly on TGVs). All the while hoping to eventually score a permanent job in Paris. Some do but of course many end up permanently in the provinces.
      Second, it’s true that many professionals in Paris return to work/live in the provinces (usually to their ancestral home, possibly where they grew up). They do this in early mid-life when they may want a bigger/better house etc.
      Third, seriously in all the time I lived in Paris I don’t think I knew any French who “lived in share apartments”. We foreigners, sure, but it is not a French thing. Of course they may pair off partly as a reaction to the increasing cost of Paris rents but sharing in the Anglosphere student sense is just not a thing. It’s true that the cost differential of intramuros-Paris versus the banlieus has broached the pain threshold, and when you’re young you really prefer the city to the banlieus …

      Anyway, in some ways these turbo-profs are FIFO too, except TITO (Train-In, Train-Out)?

      • Reedman Bassoon

        Apartments in France — [The way co-workers who were French nationals explained it to me:] the laws protecting tenants in France are extensive (you can’t be evicted during the winter months, you can’t be evicted for non-payment of rent if you lost your job). So, as protection, landlords are allowed to require a tenant to have a “permanent job” (a labor contract) at a minimum pay of three times the monthly rent and proof that you are a legal resident in order to move-in (FYI — to be valid, a labor contract must be in French). A new college grad does not move somewhere and look for work — they would have no place to stay unless they crash with friends. This also results many times in parents/coworkers being the guarantor on the apartment lease, because someone with temporary work isn’t welcomed by landlords. Being old enough to be on the French pension system (> 57 years old?) is considered an acceptable guarantee that you will pay your rent.

        • Michael James

          Reedman Bassoon, 2018/09/27 – 18:59

          Err, I know all that (I’ve done it), but how is that related to my reply to Cirratus?

          In fact, I was going to mention some of those things, in particular the fact that you can’t rent a place for more than 3x your income. This tends to suppress rents overall to manageable levels; of course Americans hate it, and econocrats will claim it is counterproductive in terms of the “free market” for rentals. Except to take that position, you’d have to bury your head in the sand and ignore NYC and London (or SF) where rents are far, far worse (without even heading across the Peripherique). AirBnb threatened to wreck this equilibrium (as it has more seriously in Barcelona, Berlin etc) but that is being brought under some control (as it should be). Last night I browsed pap.fr (the French property website) and found you can get a 40m2 two-piece (bedroom, living room, kitchen, bathroom) for €1,200 pm in the 15th, which is about one third of what Alon says you have to pay for a share apartment (maybe a shared bedroom?!) in SF.
          In fact, though I haven’t done a proper study, it seems heading across the Peripherique doesn’t save as much as I might have imagined (or hoped) and is different to purchase prices. Perhaps one reason is in fact this legal restriction on rents–it means most rents tend to plateau at some median income level. This produces extreme competition for places inside the Peripherique, which of course in a “free market” would drive those rentals thru the roof. Econocrats would love that but long-term Paris and Parisians would suffer from the resultant growing inequality and then the flow-on thru the economy, just like you see in NYC, SF and London (unaffordable cities where to be anything but rich is not at all comfortable).

          This also results many times in parents/coworkers being the guarantor on the apartment lease, because someone with temporary work isn’t welcomed by landlords.

          I know some people hate this but it’s not so bad at all. The Anglosphere, in its headlong embrace over the past 4 decades of neolib economics, has encouraged and become blighted by casualisation of work, which even in places like Australia results in people working well under minimum wage, without retirement benefits, no holiday or sick allowances etc. (Some of this is quite illegal under our FairWork Laws but Uber and its ilk have got away flaunting it for years, however the law and regulators are slowly catching up; Foodora pulled out of Australia in August and declared bankruptcy, doubtless to avoid paying its legally mandated workers benefits.) Econocrats always blather on about France’s unemployment while ignoring that their system creates more stable employment. Neither system is perfect and both have negative outcomes but I consider the disenfranchisement of casualisation to be the worse evil. It’s one thing to do this in your youth (as I did) but it is now being institutionalised for working lives and is building a future calamity. BTW, it is also responsible for the election of Trump: he’s right about all those so-called Free Trade Agreements exporting all those jobs. This system was never sustainable, though of course it seems unlikely Trump is the solution! But like Adolf was in the ’30s, so Donald is a symptom, a canary in the coal mine, today.

          • johndmuller

            Thank you for noticing our problems viz a viz canaries and coal mines; I’d like to take the analogy further, like asking for a cat to help solve our canary problem (and later a dog for the cat problem, … did someone mention rabbits?), but I don’t think I can really it work, what with a desire to fold in the real world. For one thing, our canary is still singing, albeit pitifully, where the mine canary does its thing by croaking, so really, we want our canary to stay alive and keep singing, which is really not what we want at all … you see what I mean?

            I’m not sure that turning everyone into independent contractors is necessarily related causality-wise to globalization, although they each lead to the same sort of long term career uncertainty which IMhO, is what fertilizes the minds of those ripe for the canaries and other demagogues to feed upon.

            It’s not 100% clear to me that globalization is bad, although it is quite possible that almost nobody’s social system is ready to handle the disruptions with the requisite dynamism. (I think the same is true w/r your “casualisation”.) The problem is that the economic benefits are not feeding back well (partly because they are being pocketed by capitalists) or are not being perceived. In the US, for example, I believe that we have long reaped the benefits of other peoples cheap labor and disregard of the true value of their resources to the point where items are produced and shipped to us at prices so ridiculously low it is inconceivable to imagine making them in the US for less than many multiples of their imported cost. It’s like televisions grew on trees and these trees grew like weeds. We are getting these benefits, but soon take them for granted and instead notice that cousin Billy, who used to work at a TV factory is now driving an Uber and drinking a lot – and on board with a canary claiming to Make America Great Again.

            The thing is, is that there are benefits floating around that we all get, such as nearly everything is a lot cheaper than it would have been, and that helps, but some good follow-all-the-rules people get screwed, seemingly out of the blue because there is no philosopher-king sharing out the massively increased wealth in anything resembling a equitable fashion – more like it is being looted by some horrible coalition of nerds, thugs, and Wall St. types, not to mention Health care racketeers, lawyers and “them”. No wonder the canary gets a big audience.

            Possibly, civilization can evolve to handle this highly dynamic system, like the next few generations will think nothing of if. Surely, if we find a way to live 500 years, we’ll probably need to figure our how to work it so that people can start over in new vocations from time to time, change families, cultures, gender, whatever, each level coming with its own freak out transitions. Marry a robot anyone?

            Meanwhile, I’m ready for someone’s cat to come and clear out a canary, as soon as possible please.

          • Alon Levy

            Speaking as someone who’s actually renting in Paris: the effect of the income/3 rule is not to suppress rents, it’s to require people to produce parental guarantees even if they’re in their 30s and 40s.

            Paris is indeed cheaper than San Francisco. I pay a bit more than €30/m^2. However, it’s more expensive than anywhere in Germany, even Munich (which is a richer city than Paris), and about comparable to New York on a cost per unit area basis. The only reason Paris is more affordable than New York is that unit sizes in Paris are much lower. It’s possible to get a 20 m^2 apartment in Paris at slightly more than half the rent of a 40 m^2 studio in New York. But all of these cities in question are cheaper than SF, even Stockholm (where I paid more per unit area than I do in Paris) – SF has the world’s highest incomes and highest rents.

          • Michael James

            Alon Levy, 2018/09/28 – 11:49

            the effect of the income/3 rule is not to suppress rents, it’s to require people to produce parental guarantees even if they’re in their 30s and 40s

            Not convinced of that. If you have a job, you just need the paperwork from employer and bank. Also, too lazy to check it out, but pretty sure it is not legal to get “rent guarantee” from third parties whether parents or employer. One of the things landlords complain about and why they can be so picky about their choice of tenant. Oh, and the rule so obviously does suppress rents. Do the thought experiment of, if it were applied to London or SF or NYC …

            The only reason Paris is more affordable than New York is that unit sizes in Paris are much lower. It’s possible to get a 20 m^2 apartment in Paris at slightly more than half the rent of a 40 m^2 studio in New York

            That’s why I gave as my example, a 2-piece 40m2 (though 30m2 is closer to the acceptable limit). After having lived in all kinds of situations in all kinds of cities, I don’t think a per m2 cost is the most informative or relevant; it can be very misleading and is one reason, among many, why those city league tables are so ridiculous. Function is the most important thing and a 40m2 place with separate bedroom & kitchen (there is something depressing about a “coin cuisine”) is more than adequate. The thing is that in NYC or London, in my experience, a nominally bigger place (for the same price) won’t necessarily be better, and as a thousand pieces of journalism attest, ineluctably they are getting turned into more than one bedroom (except it might be a cardboard partition–or even a tent in the “big” living room etc). In other words, beyond the size required for “one dble bedroom”, ineluctably it will be priced as the equivalent of two-bedder or whatever, even if it doesn’t actually have a second bedroom! In Paris this factor has already been optimised a long time ago.
            In fact my comment about the banlieus compared to intramuros should have been more nuanced: the same rent will gain you more space, but you are clearly directly swapping convenience, even “lifestyle”, for a bit of extra space (ok in some cases 50% more). The fact that intramuros Paris is so densely populated kind of answers the question about preferences. You’ve made that choice yourself.

            [I wonder with your experience if you might agree with me, for example on bedrooms: some people seem obsessed with stuff that simply doesn’t matter, such as size, beyond adequate for double-bed, and–most dumb of all–views! Same with bathrooms–as long as they are properly designed–which funny enough, those places that don’t have to worry about optimising space, aren’t good at–they can be quite tiny and still perfectly functional. In this context I think it is worth noting that there have been some years in the US that the biggest addition of built-space has been in storage–for people in those McMansions who continue to buy stuff but have overflowed the two-car garage; other years of course it has been prisons! Just like, to this day in the 21st century, Americans cannot for the life of them, design small or compact cars! I think Parisians have a more balanced sense of the value of space. Sometimes we Anglos–or similar–learn the lesson while living in Paris, but then on return to the lesser Anglosphere (ie. not London, NYC, SF or Sydney etc) yearning for the extra “affordable” space, only to then discover that really they would give away that so-called luxurious space for the combination of convenience and lifestyle they had in Paris.]

            And then there is the biggest factor: I seriously doubt you are comparing like-with-like. By citing “Paris” you of course mean intramuros but by looking at averages in Munich or Berlin, what does that mean? Paris is a mega-city of 12m and there isn’t a single comparable German city (thus the valid comparisons are with London, NYC). But really a big factor is in how easy/affordable each nation or city makes it for renters. This is a big factor in Germany–and especially Berlin which has >80% renters (IIRC). In France the ownership rate is a fair bit higher though this is somewhat misleading (underestimated) by the cultural fact that French don’t think about buying their own home until later in life (certainly compared to the Anglosphere)–what would be good to see is homeownership versus age. Incidentally Switzerland has one of the highest incomes (often #1 after eliminating city states) yet has one of the developed world’s lowest home ownership rates. I don’t have enough exposure but talking with a professional photographer once, he said that for a lot of Swiss, even professionals like himself, living there (renting small apartments) it wasn’t necessarily as rosy as outsiders assume.

          • Michael James

            Alon, oops, I only realised after posting my last comment that the rental rules may make it difficult for someone like yourself who survives off freelancing and I assume irregular income.

          • Alon Levy

            Yes! That’s the problem.

            And contrary to what you say, guarantees are normal; landlords asked me (but my parents don’t live in France), and stories of 40-year-olds who have to give parental guarantees are common in English-language media and in comparative European studies.

          • Michael James

            Alon Levy, 2018/09/29 – 10:36

            I don’t have any direct, or even indirect, experience of that. What I was talking about: are such guarantees legal? Are they simply “letters” (references) or some kind of legal bond? That kind of thing still strikes me as against the spirit of what I know about French rental law; so the question, again, is, is it legal? Or is it one of those quasi-legal underhanded things the law shields its eyes from? [Googling shows me that there are Insurance companies who provide such a guarantor service–so I suppose that means it is legal?; of course they do this for a fee and come after you if you default. But I see that there is a free (government?) service, for cases like yours, called ‘Visale’. I also see that third-party guarantors, parents etc, must demonstrate their income of 4x the rent, fair enough if a total bore.]
            Either way, I agree it is not perfect. But it doesn’t mean the rent limit vs income is bad.

            Also, one should avoid furnished apartments because they are more expensive for what they ‘provide’ (except for seriously upmarket rentals, the furnishings are likely to be inadequate and poor quality), have more restrictive tenancy terms, and buying your own ‘stuff’ is just too cheap these days (the good and the bad of our consumer society; you can buy the whole lot in a single visit to BHV or Ikea, and it will be delivered to your 5th-floor-walk-up!).

            Renting is a real bore almost anywhere in the world. By definition, any place that isn’t, is not your first, second or third choice. Sigh, there seems only one solution in today’s world: be rich!

          • Alon Levy

            I got a furnished apartment because I only expected to live in Paris for 9 months. Nearly 2 years later, it will soon be the apartment I’ve lived in the longest in my adult life.

            I don’t know if the guarantees are legal bonds; not having French parents, I couldn’t use them anyway so I never asked.

      • Ion D

        I did not want to be too obscure for the readers for the non-French readers but when I referred to the Paris “region” I was mainly thinking about the “académies” of Créteil and Versailles – that is everything except the core of the agglomeration. The tables on this page (in French):
        https://www.snes.edu/Barres-des-mouvements-Inter-academiques-2013-2018.html
        , give a rough measure of how much sought-after each region is for every kind of teacher (scale: 14 or 21 points everyone can ask for a post there and will have it, 500 points is quite hard, over a thousand you need special bonuses like for a handicap).

        Paris itself varies from not very “hard” to get (eg English) to the most sought-after (Philosophy); Créteil and Versailles have always, always, the minimum score (so there are more places than tenured teachers that want to go there).

        As for the use of shared apartments (“colocation”) I have less data and more anecdotes / personal experiences and I might well be wrong about the degree to which is a typical experience for the young teachers. But, in general, apartments or house sharing is no longer just a student thing.

          • Michael James

            I looked at that French website but sorry lost patience: you have to choose from pull-down menus from lists of lots of alternatives and wasn’t sure what it was going to produce. So I don’t understand whatever point you may have been striving for. My point was that first-appointments are strongly outside Paris and with a over-representation of people (teachers, medics, other professionals) competing to get to Paris. Are you saying that is not the case? (individual suburbs like Versailles etc should have no influence).

            As for “co-location” I am more convinced my original thoughts were correct: Paris and its apartments and its rental arrangements are simply not set up for rental sharing (among strangers).

            But I’m open to argument and data (honest), just that you’ll have to set it out (and pointing to a complicated French website is not enough).

  4. IAN Mitchell

    Surprisingly, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard The Mission compared to Williston.

    Mining towns had often dozens of men for every woman, modern “Man Jose” has about 150 twentysomething men for every 100 women of similar age, and more single men live in San Jose than in the entire state of Alaska.

    For many people, family formation and community participation are inextricably linked.

    Without a wife or kids, what does a techbro care that there’s fæces on the street, camper vans filling walmart parking lots, that he’ll never buy a home where he makes his current income, that he’s paying $3-5k a month to live in a place where the public realm looks like this?
    https://goo.gl/maps/4QFzqCeuz1L2

    He can work there for a few years, save up, buy the nicest house walking distance from a historic main street in the rust belt, and work from home, or not at all.
    It’s the mines.

  5. orulz

    You could make the argument that ALL production amenities – bar none – are ‘mines’. People put up with things that they’re not thrilled about in order to have steady, well-paying employment. If the oil fields of North Dakota and the Bay Area’s tech industry are the mines of this decade (for different reasons), The Rust Belt was the mine of the middle of the 20th century. People didn’t really want to live there; the weather is basically awful. But that’s where the ‘mines’ (factories) were. Once the ‘mines’ closed, the people left.

    The astronomical housing costs in areas like the SF bay towards the peak of the boom are not just a reflection of NIMBYism. That undoubtedly plays a part, but it also reflects the fact that investing capital at the peak of a boom is risky. Frankly it’s a waste of capital, energy, and natural resources to build cities so that they can comfortably fit all the people who want to live there at the peak of a boom. Look at all the houses that needed to be torn down in Detroit, and all the infrastructure that was built there to support all those residents, that is now crumbling because it can’t be maintained anymore.

    Everybody seems to have a short memory but a decade or so ago, there were commercial vacancies and empty houses all over the place in the Bay Area, and the question was whether the market would ever recover. The boom-bust cycle there is notorious. We are at the peak of a boom. Of course it’s going to be expensive, crowded, and unpleasant. Maybe it doesn’t have to be as bad as it is, but to a certain extent it’s just the market doing it’s thing.

  6. Martin

    I’ve lived with roommates, and personally found it a lot more fun than living alone like my friends outside of California did. Not only that, you can pay off your student loans faster, pay off your car faster, max out your 401k, and have more friends to network with, meet your possible future gf/bf and a much easier social life. You also learn how to be polite and get along with people better.

    It’s easy to write articles that make it seem like a downside, but the benefits are greatly unappreciated.

    • Eric

      I agree. I had roommates for many years, till I met my now-wife.

      Past a certain age (30-40), though, people seem to get set in their ways and not want to have to deal with someone of different ways. It might actually be better for them to be forced to be social, but they choose otherwise.

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