Quest for Cheaper Housing Drives Middle Class Inland

Photo (cc) by rutlo

Goodbye, San Diego. Hello, Oklahoma City.

According to The New York Times, many Americans are packing their belongings and heading inland, bidding farewell to the coastal cities they called home, in search of cheaper housing.

It’s a reversal of what happened in the early years of the millennium, when Americans left their small towns in droves and headed to the coast in search of job opportunities, warmer weather and a better life.

At that time, easy credit enabled cities to grow despite housing costs. In fact, the fastest-growing cities during that period had housing that was more expensive than the national average. Now, the opposite is true, the Times said.

Among those who have moved long distances (more than 500 miles), the number of people who said affordable housing was their main propellant has more than doubled from 8 percent in 2001 to 18 percent in 2014. The Times said:

Oklahoma City, for example, has outpaced most other cities in growth since 2011, becoming the 12th-fastest-growing city last year. It has also won over a coveted demographic, young adults age 25 to 34, going from a net loss of millennials to a net gain. Other affordable cities that have jumped in the growth rankings include several in Texas, including El Paso and San Antonio, as well as Columbus, Ohio, and Little Rock, Ark.

Gone are the days when people with modest salaries were approved for loans to purchase exorbitantly expensive homes. Now, housing costs deeply factor into where the middle class is able to live. The Times quoted Redfin chief executive Glenn Kelman:

Now that getting a mortgage has become harder, the wage stagnation that has hobbled the middle class for years has deeper consequences. “People have no choice,” Mr. Kelman said. “They can’t move across the street; they have to move across the country.”

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