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In defense of ordinary neighborhoods in Phoenix, Arizona


I've been lucky, I grew up in an ordinary neighborhood in Minneapolis, and I now live in an ordinary neighborhood in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. But I've rarely seen anyone else who has my point of view. I'll see if I can explain, by including a little bit of Phoenix, and Los Angeles, history.

When I lived in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, in my late twenties, I had been pondering the difficulty of buying a house. I had a great job with a big company, and was earning a good wage (not making quite my age, but close), but I realized that there would be no way that I could do what previous generations had done. In a single generation, the neighborhood around where I worked had absolutely exploded with home values. I talked to some people whose parents had bought a house in Woodland Hills for $50,000, which were now valued at $500,000. And it made me sad.

When I try to explain how terrible this is, most people think that I'm kidding. But it's just awful. Back in the 1980s, before California passed a special law to protect people from the rising value of their own homes, people were losing their houses simply because they couldn't pay the property tax. If you're interested, you can Google "Proposition 13", which helped a lot of people, and still does. But it didn't help the next generation.

People of my generation, who were just starting families, wanted to live near their parents. It's something that most people take for granted, having grandma and grandpa nearby. But it just wasn't possible, and many of those people had to buy houses with a three-hour commute, or squeeze into a tiny apartment. I was lucky, because I just left, and moved to Phoenix, looking for an ordinary neighborhood, which I found, and am still in.

I don't have any kids, but if I did, they could afford to live near me, and maybe spend some time with grandpa. I suppose the grandkids would call me "Pappy"! The price of the houses in my neighborhood have gone up, of course, since I bought my house in '93, but not to the same extent that I saw the houses do in California. In all the time I've lived here I've never heard of anyone being forced out of their house because they couldn't pay property taxes.

Everyone that I've ever talked to has been thrilled to see the value of their house go up. For young people, I suppose it's comforting to think that they got a bargain as compared to people who were buying now. For middle-aged people, I imagine that a rising house value could mean that they could sell their house and move somewhere else. And for elderly people, I know a lot of people who plan to move into assisted car, so they will need a LOT of money for that, and the sale of their house will help them. But that's not me, and never has been.

As a young person (well, 35), I didn't get a bargain on this house, I got a good value. The longer I lived in this neighborhood the more I liked it, and wanted to stay. I watched a Post Office being built nearby, and a Home Depot, among many other things. And now that I'm entering my senior years, I want to stay here. I've designed my house so that I can "age in place". I have no intention of leaving here until I'm done with this old body, so I'm not saving up for assisted care.

Like I say, I've been lucky. An ordinary neighborhood is where I want to live.

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