Pick A Suburb, Any Suburb

The reason there’s a housing shortage in Brooklyn is related to the reason my father-in-law’s house in Westchester hasn’t been appreciating in value: young families aren’t rushing to the suburbs anymore. Even parents want to stay in the city if at all possible, doing without a lot of those all-American amenities associated with an idyllic childhood (lawns, space, clean air) in favor of other urban amenities (public transportation, restaurants, culture).

The only apartment buildings going up, though, cater to the top of the market:

The median price for a Brooklyn apartment leaped by a whopping 25% to $550,000 in the past 12 months, the biggest jump in price in six years, according to a new first-quarter report by the Corcoran Group brokerage.
The median price for a one-bedroom home went up by 19% over the past year.
“There’s great pentup demand,” said Frank Percesepe of Corcoran. “We have many more customers than we can service.”
The highly charged market means buyers are ready to pounce on good deals. Listings stayed on the market for an average of just 64 days in the first quarter, down 17% from a year ago.
Inventory is inching up — by 19% over 12 months — but experts say the uptick in available product is not geared toward the majority of buyers.
Insufficient inventory is coming online in the high-demand $500,000 to $1 million range, while too much inventory is coming aimed at buyers looking for properties selling for $2 million and above.

But now that Brooklyn has gotten so expensive that it’s cheaper to live in Ohio and fly back every weekend than to buy a studio in the still-gentrifying neighborhood of Clinton Hill, a person has to wonder: when will even the staunchest pedestrians and lovers of Prospect Park and say Enough Is Enough and lug their record players across the river?

Nothing I’ve seen of Westchester has impressed me so far. Meanwhile, my personal distaste for Jersey runs wide but shallow, being composed of impressions based on “The Sopranos” (30%), Chris Christie (25%), “Jersey Shore” (15%), the Turnpike (10%), the fact that it doesn’t offer free pre-K (10%) and general snobbishness about homogenous, conservative, isolated and boring suburbs / bedroom communities (10%).

But I have been to the beach in Jersey and enjoyed it. I have wandered happily through Cape May. I have been impressed by the adorable river-town of Lambertville — across the river from New Hope, PA — and the fact that Jersey is one of only four states that offers *paid* family leave. Clearly it’s not all bad.

Americans at large still retain a more positive view of the suburbs than I do. According to Trulia:

Americans Dream of Suburbs Over Cities
When describing where their dream home is located, most Americans wanted to live in the countryside (27%) and suburbs (27%) rather than in the heart of a major American city (8%). This was especially true for Baby Boomers and Gen X. But for Millennials, living a short commute to work (34%) and in a great school district (34%) were far more important that the actual location. …
Millennials, compared to any other generation, want it all. Given the option, 18–34 year olds would like all the latest and greatest amenities in their dream home — especially want a balcony with a view. …
All in all, Americans are pretty realistic and practical when it comes what they want in their dream home. Most people aren’t looking for a grand mansion, tiny home or even a home with an iconic architectural style — they want a mid-sized, modern home in the suburbs with a backyard deck. This is likely because the dream of homeownership is largely driven by marriage and children. Having a duel income makes buying a home more affordable, while parents often want the stability that comes with owning a home.

I am tickled by the idea of “duel incomes.” It’s one of those spelling mistakes that accidentally works in a deeper way: too often, two-income families are antagonistic rather than cooperative.

It is also true though that I do find myself dreaming of reliable school districts, a yard, and having more than 850 square feet. So here I am on a Sunday, googling Maplewood and Montclair. Maybe tomorrow the temporary insanity will pass and I’ll once again search the deeper-into-Brooklyn possibilities like Midwood and Bay Ridge, even though the middle schools in those places are mediocre and the high schools are worse; or I’ll calm down and remember that we’ll be fine in our 850 sq ft for another year and a half, if not longer. This apartment may not be my dream house but in other also important ways I am living my dream.