Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Middle Class Squeeze, The View From Woodbridge, Virginia.

I have had a prayer for several years now. That prayer is for the housing bubble to burst.

While many are worrying about what will happen to their personal investments in their homes, many others, like myself, have been patiently waiting for the housing bubble to burst, because it would make the cost of buying a home more affordable.

I live in Woodbridge, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. The median cost of a single family home is $495,000. Such a home would give you an approximate monthly mortgage payment of about $3,000 a month. For that to be even remotely affordable your total household income would have to be at least $72,000 per year.

The cheapest single family house I could find with a quick internet search was going for $350,000. The cheapest town house I could find was going for $275,000, with an approximate monthly mortgage payment of $2,000 a month. To afford such a home your total household income would have to be at least $48,000 per year.

That leaves you with apartments, which your average two bedroom in the area costs $1,300 per month. On the cheap end there’s one bedroom apartments for $950 per month, but range as high as $4,420 a month. There was one apartment complex that was offering studio apartments for $475 a month, but the wait for one to open up is a year and a half, and those apartments are frequently robbed and broken into.

Currently, my total household income is $35,000, and when I was renting a two bedroom apartment I was mostly living off of rice, ramen, and water. Luckily for me, I now live much cheaper. I am renting a 460 square foot basement of a house for $500 a month. But I live without a full sized refrigerator, no stove, and no dishwasher. I have a monthly food budget of $75, and my disposable income after all is said and done is only a few hundred dollars here and there.

I consider myself lucky. Several years ago, when I was still living with my parents, our family got evicted because the owners of the house had decided to sell it. My parents were forced to move from a four bedroom spacious single family home to cramped 3 bedroom townhouse with no basement. There was no extra bedroom for me, so at 18 I was forced to find a room to rent. I got a fast food job and found a room 20 miles away that I could afford. The catch was that I could not afford a car, and there is virtually no public transportation. I decided that something was better than nothing.

When the day came for me to move in, the landlord went someplace else, leaving me knocking on his door in the rain, with all my belongings in the back of a tarp covered pickup truck.

I was forced to put all my belongings into storage, and a friend let me stay on his couch for free. But after a month, and with his wife expecting a third child I had to find someplace else.

Except there was no place else. I couldn’t find a room to rent nearby and ended up going homeless. Because I was homeless and could not shower on a daily basis, I could not hold on to my job. I spent about 6 months homeless, sleeping where ever I could find. It was the only time in my life that I broke the law. I would break into vacant houses and sleep on floor. One place had a large shed in the backyard, with large wooden shelves, that I used as a bed. My shoes were my pillow and my flannel was my blanket. I remember sleeping on that board and waking up every night with splinters in my palms, frozen stiff from the cold fall air.

Finally, one day I visited my parents and asked them if I could take a shower. I had refused to tell them that I was homeless because I knew there was no room to take me in. My mother figured out that something was wrong, and took me in, with me sleeping on the couch for another year while I got back on my feet, and finally I moved into an apartment with my brother and girlfriend.

There is a serious crisis in America. Our incomes are no longer paying for our cost of living. At some point, there must be a breaking point, where we collectively say, “enough.”

While Congress has decided that they will receive a yearly raise unless they vote not to increase it, the American worker has not seen their incomes rise in the last 8 years. Couple that with the rise in energy prices, home prices, and inflation and Americans are making less instead of more.

There is good news though. Communities all over the country have won numerous campaigns for a living wage. Local communities have begun to step in where the federal government has utterly failed. Dozens of communities have set living wages, sometimes doubling the federal minimum wage, many of them set to inflation or the consumer price index.

For more information on bringing a living wage to your community visit The Living Wage Resource Center.

11 Comments:

Blogger MiamiMiami said...

Except there was no place else. I couldn’t find a room to rent nearby and ended up going homeless. Because I was homeless and could not shower on a daily basis, I could not hold on to my job. I spent about 6 months homeless, sleeping where ever I could find. It was the only time in my life that I broke the law. I would break into vacant houses and sleep on floor. One place had a large shed in the backyard, with large wooden shelves, that I used as a bed. My shoes were my pillow and my flannel was my blanket. I remember sleeping on that board and waking up every night with splinters in my palms, frozen stiff from the cold fall air.
======>What is it that you are trained to do for a lvigin that you could not hold on to a job? And if you can't afford to live where you are at maybe you should consider moving somewhere more affordable. Just a thought...

8:56 AM  
Blogger Alva Goldbook said...

Get yourself a backpack, fill it with a change of clothes, go into the woods, and sleep there for two weeks. No food, no car, no place to rest your head. Try it for two weeks. If you still have a job when those two weeks are up, then you can tell me your thoughts.

4:41 PM  
Blogger Chaos said...

I knew that real estate was kinda crazy in your area, but those are almost California prices! I can see how easily someone can slip off the cliff as you did. Although I loathe the red state I live in (Texas), we do have cheap cheap cheap real estate. Of course, it's ugly too and the property taxes are high, but at least we execute more people than anyone. Go Lone Star!

5:07 PM  
Blogger MiamiMiami said...

Get yourself a backpack, fill it with a change of clothes, go into the woods, and sleep there for two weeks. No food, no car, no place to rest your head. Try it for two weeks. If you still have a job when those two weeks are up, then you can tell me your thoughts.

======>Wah! I can't get a job where my employer won't make me pee in a cup and tell me what to do all day! Woh is me! WAH! Grow up kid. I have done that! For longer than two weeks! I didn';t have mommy to run to either. How bout you grow up and learn to live within the comforms of keeping yourself gainfully employed.

7:41 PM  
Blogger MiamiMiami said...

I knew that real estate was kinda crazy in your area, but those are almost California prices! I can see how easily someone can slip off the cliff as you did. Although I loathe the red state I live in (Texas), we do have cheap cheap cheap real estate. Of course, it's ugly too and the property taxes are high, but at least we execute more people than anyone. Go Lone Star!

=====.The simple fact is that there are areas that you can afford to live in and some you can't. I live in Miami. Believe me there are areas that I can clearly NOT afford. I can get my mortgage super cheap too and I can't. So if you can't afford to live in your area move to where you canafford to live instead of whinig about it.

7:42 PM  
Blogger MiamiMiami said...

BY the way I have found already 5 listings in the Woiodbridge Va area that are under $200,000. They are not single family homes but they are condos. You can buy one and wait for the equity to increase and then when you have some equity built up in your porperty sell it and buy your single family home. You need only look or find a Realtor and settle for what you can afford now instead of whining about how you can't find anything to buy or how you can't hold a job.

By the way I have seen people with oput a job qualify and get a mortgage so stop trying to play the victim.

Here are the links to the listings on Realtor.com

http://realtor.com/Prop/1052146553?lnksrc=00045

http://realtor.com/Prop/1052663458?lnksrc=00045

http://realtor.com/Prop/1052218443?lnksrc=00045

http://realtor.com/FindHome/HomeListing.asp?snum=4&locallnk=yes&frm=bymap&mnbed=0&mnbath=0&mnprice=50000&mxprice=200000&js=off&pgnum=1&fid=so&mnsqft=&mls=xmls&areaid=1904&typ=1%2C+2%2C+3%2C+4%2C+5%2C+6%2C+7&poe=realtor&ct=Woodbridge&st=VA&sbint=&vtsort=&sid=058663CB6845C&snumxlid=1052142524&lnksrc=00002

http://realtor.com/Prop/1052763891?lnksrc=00045

8:16 PM  
Blogger Alva Goldbook said...

Actually, the most affordable area to buy a house from in the region is Baltimore. But to commute to Washington DC from B-more is a two hour drive...and that's without ANY traffic. Your average apartment goes for $500 a month there.

I've seen people commute from Front Royal to D.C., which is about 2 hours west of here. It's so far out west that it's in the Appalachian mountains, and the sighting of black bears are common enough.

To give you an idea of how insane the housing is in the region, my parents bought their tiny 3 bedroom townhouse 5 years ago for $79,000. Today similar units are going for $350,000. My parents get regular offers in the mail to buy their home , for as much as $425,000.

By the way...those condos are along Occoquan Road, a 5 minute drive south of me. I used to drive a cab in the area, and one of our cabbies had his throat slit (by two women no less) in that very condo community.

the Sheriff's department told us to keep our eyes open when working that area as they think as much as 35% of the crack dealing and 45% of the crystal meth production goes on in that neighborhood.

Where I live now is a absolutely beautiful area. The massive homes here go onto market for $600,000 or more. It's beautiful, quite, and that back of the house go right up against the woods and the Occoquan River. In my backyard I've seen foxes, deer, and rabbits, and a few turtles live nearby. I regularly feed a group of chimp mucks on my patio (not to mention the damn squirrels...or "tree rats" as I call them) and I've seen 6 of them all huddled against the stack of firewood. And I've been told that the woman I hear screaming at night is actually the local resident bobcat.

Not that I live out in the sticks either, two large strip malls are within walking distance, as well as 3 grocery stores.

Very gorgeous, and very beautiful for 500 bucks a month. I would take that over crack house condo any day. How about you?

8:51 PM  
Blogger MiamiMiami said...

So bascially you want it your way or the highway and when you get the highway you complain. You admittedly have trouble holding a job, and still want to live in the more expensive home. Did you realize for one minute that NOT everyone's first home was in the most beautiful area of town? That maybe those folks bought their nicer home LATER? No nonono. You need to have the best and yet expect to pay nothing for it.

I just proved that you are not really interested in being homeowner but a complainer and a whiner. Don't use the fact that someone was killed in an area to complain about what you can afford or not. i live in Miami and we have crime in every neighborhood too at one time or another.

But I guess there are those that do and those that complain.......

6:35 AM  
Blogger Alva Goldbook said...

Miami,
now this is unbelievable. Since I have no desire to move to a shittier neighbor that cost more to live in than I'm QUOTE a "complainer and a whiner".

Personally, I could care less about the crime in my area. As a cab driver I regularly dealt with criminals. No one realizes this, but cabbies aren't that much different from police officers, except they're not allowed to shoot people or arrest them. After a while, you get used to it, and occasionally you have to threaten to run someone over or some other madness.

However, I certainly would not choose that kind of lifestyle for my better half.

Miami, you also assume that "I can't hold down a job". You base this on? Apparently, you've never heard of "the working poor". I guess in the republican world view you either have a job and are a millionaire, or you're on welfare. Perhaps, that's the kind of world you guys would LIKE to live in, but it's simply not the case. A massive number of people simply do not make enough to get by, and many of those people are working 60 hours a week or more.

Thirdly, buying a home right now is about the stupidiest thing you can possibly do, unless you plan to sell it immediately. By next year the housing bubble will most likely burst, and property values could very well take a tumble. As I said in my post, that is the moment I am waiting for.

and finally, in the not too distant future (unfortunately) I will inherent 5 different properties, and an additional hefty chunk of change. But that's not because I have earned it, or worked for it. It is because I am far LUCKIER than most people.

To even think that an economy that rewards not effort but the luck of the draw is itself inequitable. and this very system is one of the many reasons why I found myself homeless.

personally, I am PROUD that I was homeless for 6 months. Nothing opens you eyes to the plight of others less fortunate, then living it. and I know for a FACT that NOBODY can go from homelessness to anything else without the help of others. If you disagree with you, then there's one way for you to find out. TRY IT. Think of it as a camping trip, minus the tent, supplies, and the woods.

so if this is the case, would it logically mean that those of us who are lower middle class cannot become upper middle class without the help of others? How about those who become rich?

I believe we have a economic system that benefits the few at the EXPENSE of the many. When we hear that total household debt is raising, bankrupcies are exploding, those of us with healthcare coverage are dwindling, that inflation is raising while wages are stagnating, dispite an increase in productivity, and that 5 million Americans have fallen into poverty in the last 5 years, then we should recognize, if we have any rationality, that OUR economic system, that we created to benefit US, is no longer working.

In my view, it is long overdue to completely replace it.

12:35 PM  
Blogger MiamiMiami said...

So as an anarcho-syndycalist when will you redistribute your inherited land to the poorer folks around you? Or is that not in the plan? I mean with this inherited land you will be as wealthy as some of the white land owners before you! Please do tell me how you plan to redistribute this land to others so that they have as much as you do! ]


WHINER

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear blogger,
I too am from Woodbridge, Virginia. I have a law degree and have never had trouble holding down a job (I point this out only because this was a subject of criticism in some of the comments) but I can sympathize with your housing woes. The DC metro area housing market is out of control. oOntrary to common myth, most law graduates make enter into small law firm, non profit or government jobs that earn between $30,000 and $40,000. With student loans and the high price of housing, I will not be able to qualify for a home loan for several years unless there is a siginificant decline in real estate values. Although your commentators do not seem to understand that Woodbridge IS the "cheap" market in the DC metro area (baltimore noninclusive, since it is a metropolitan area of its own, quite a distance from DC) I agree with your commentators that buying ANYTHING is preferable to renting. Look into first time home buyer deals, but steer clear of interest only loans, as they can land you in financial trouble later down the road.

2:57 PM  

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