Bureau of Programming

Houses in California Are Still Expensive

Adam Nagourney and Conor Dougherty, reporting for the New York Times, were assigned this month’s “house prices are crazy!” article:

Heather Lile, a nurse who makes $180,000 a year, commutes two hours from her home in Manteca to the San Francisco hospital where she works, 80 miles away. “I make really good money and it’s frustrating to me that I can’t afford to live close to my job,” said Ms. Lile.

Leave it to the Times to track down the least sympathetic human and place her grievance in the third paragraph. But Ms. Lile does have a point: There’s something very wrong here. No one can be certain of a housing bubble until it pops, but when relatively well-off people decide to commute three or more hours a day, that’s pretty damning. It reminds me of this anecdote from the brink of the last financial meltdown:

A private-equity executive I talked to said that he sensed the jig was up when his cleaning woman—“from Nicaragua or El Salvador or wherever the fuck she’s from”—took out a subprime loan to buy a house in Virginia. She drove down with her husband every weekend from New York, six hours each way, to fix it up for resale. They cleared sixty-five thousand dollars on the deal, in a matter of months. To many, this would have been proof that America is a land of opportunity, but to him it signalled a fatal imbalance between obligation and means.

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