Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

In defense of affordable neighborhoods in Phoenix, and California


As someone who has a fascination with the history of Phoenix, and Los Angeles, I often hear comments about neighborhoods as being "nice" or "used to be nice" or are becoming "nice". And while I rarely hear someone come right out and describe what they mean by "nice", but I know what they mean - no poor people live there. In other words, these areas aren't affordable to anyone but the rich.

If I do make the mistake of implying that people are being snobbish, they always assure me that they aren't rich - it's the other people higher up on the hill that are rich. And then of course if you talk to those people, they just keep pointing, and so on, and so on. I've met many more people who confess to being poor than confess to being rich. But I can tell if people have been really poor. And since I've been poor, and have lived in affordable neighborhoods, I have a perspective that many people don't have. Everyone needs a place to live, even people who aren't rich.

Time-travel with me. When I first moved to Phoenix, at 19, I needed an affordable place to live. I was scrounging by on a minimum-wage job that was only part-time. I've shown people the neighborhood, and also the one I lived in when I was going to ASU, and they shudder. My friends are all older and wealthier now, and most of them have always had enough wealth to go to restaurants, bars, concerts, etc. I have rarely met anyone who has lived like a "church mouse", mostly living on rice and beans, and making every dollar stretch until it screamed. I lived in affordable neighborhoods in California and was only able to move out to the suburbs of Phoenix in my mid-thirties, buying the house I'm still in, and hopefully will be until I don't need a place to live anymore. I've been lucky.

Many people aren't as lucky as I've been. I made a good choice of parents, and they sent me to college, and I was able to earn the kind of income that gets you into a "nice" neighborhood. You know the kind: with garages that protect shiny cars, an association that leaves little notes on your door if you haven't taken care of your weeds, rules against working on your car in the driveway.

No, of course I'm not rich, the rich people are north of me, and they can point to the real rich people, etc., etc. And yes, I'm glad that I can afford to live in a "nice" neighborhood. But when I couldn't afford it, this wouldn't have been nice at all, just too expensive. Everything can't be Beverly Hills.

Image at the top of this post: The Saguaro Apartments in 1981, 4205 N. 9th Street, Phoenix, Arizona. Affordable to me when I first moved to Phoenix.

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