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The Almighty Buck

In Silicon Valley $37K/Year May Mean Public Housing 350

flanksteak sent us this U.S. News and World Report story about head-shakingly high Silicon Valley housing prices. A local homeless shelter administrator is quoted as saying, "We're serving firemen, cops, and teachers. We even have the human-resource departments of some of our biggest companies calling us, asking,'Can you get this employee into your shelter?'"
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In Silicon Valley $37K/Year May Mean Public Housing

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  • Nobody that can't afford even modest shelter is OVER paid. It's more a situation of reverse price gouging. Very few people have skills so 'special' that there is nobody else who can do the job.

    Employers regularly join various organizations where they discuss what they will pay their employees, why shouldn't employees discuss what they will charge employers?

    On the other hand, I DO have to wonder why some of these people don't move somewhere where the cost of living vs. going wages is SANE.

  • At least they could adopt the Japanese practice of providing large dormitories for newer workers.

    Now there's a country with real estate problems of this nature... nobody can buy houses in the urbanized areas, and they take up a significant portion of the country. Their answer (which would work in Silicon Valley if they just tried a bit harder) is public transportation.

    Oxryly
  • I don't think this is a bubble. Bubbles usually happen when there is a lot of speculation in business property. This drives up prices for business property; the price increases ripple into down-town apartment and condo prices; and finally single-family housing prices rise. The effect on prices is highest for business property and least for single-family houses in suburbia.

    In the valley, the exact opposite is happening. The price increases are driven by an influx of people who have very productive jobs and want houses. Housing prices are rising faster than apartment and condo prices, which in turn are rising faster than business property. It will only burst if lots of people decide to leave. That doesn't seem likely, given the productivity and consequent high wages in the region.

    I don't doubt that prices will fluctuate. I doubt that they will go down much, or for long, unless there is a really major economic dislocation that affects the whole world.
  • Much of Atlanta's low income housing residents are on welfare, not because they are engineers or city workers who have to pay 1650 on a 1000sqft 2-bedroom apartment in a crappy Mountain View neighborhood.
  • That is what it is and after spending two years working there, I'm very happy to be back in the Midwest. It turns my CA friends' stomaches to see the house I got here in the Twin Cities area for $180k. :-)
  • Actually, I'm one of the fortunate ones. I telecommute, work very few hours, am paid decently and my work is enjoyable.

    I still have complaints, but nearly everyone in every job does. It's just our nature.

    As far as the cost of living, there are some people who just don't know how to handle their money. I'm twenty-two years-old and live in/near Oregon's own "silicon valley". My cost of living (including paying off my student-loan) is little above fifty-percent of my total income (after taxes).

    I found a good deal on an apartment, but I wasn't picky (hey, it has a phone line and a vending machine down the hall, what else do I need?). I also don't drive, so I save the expense of a car (you can get anywhere easily on light-rail or or bus and keep your sanity without dealing with the growing traffic).

    While I may have it reasonably well, I know far too many people who are just letting themselves be walked all over. No, they shouldn't build a union (frankly, if their were a high-tech union those who were doing well and wanted to stay on their own would be seriously hurt by it). They should band together, though, on each individual basis. That is, if a particular company is grinding you into the ground, the employees at that company need to do something about it. They need to combine their power to have leverage. If the Autobots just sit around in fear of rocking the boat, the Decepticons win by default.

    And that's why I said it's what we deserve. Not because we lack a union, but because we refuse to unite when confronted with those situations.

    If people at Company X are happy, they shouldn't, via a union, be expected to stand up and leverage their combined power for employees of Company Z. However, the employees at Company Z should all grow some balls and do something about their situation, collaboratively.

    Where one person is disgruntled, there may be ten, twenty, or fifty. If one of them stands and draws the line, management will shrug and just hire someone else. If ten, twenty, or fifty of them made the same demand, they may very well have some leverage.
    ---
    seumas.com

  • I'm surprised you didn't mention the big cities in Tennessee. The cost of living is about average or less than average and the weather is ok. Aparently the IT related job market in Nashville is pretty good. FedEx is Memphis is always griping that they can't hire enough IT staff. The area doesn't produce enough IT talent and they can't attract enough from out of state. But then again, a friend of mine has said the only reasons someone moves to Memphis are:

    • They used to live there
    • They have relatives that live there
    • They are insane.
  • We need immediate emergency rent control and a rent roll back measures on the 2000 ballot.

    I want a 10% rent reduction on all units and limit rent increases to the inflation rate (which is currently about 3%) every 12 months.

    So a $1500 apartment would be $1350 and the next year it would be $1390. That is fair and reasonable.

    When I moved into my Mountain View apartment, I was paying 1425, then they increasted it to 1550 (8.8% increase), then to 1675 (again 8%). That is insane!

    STOP THE INSANITY, ASK FOR A BALLOT MEASURE TO KEEP RENTS LOW!
  • This has got to be one of the larger problems with the industry today: the assumption that all of the good and interesting work is being done in a tiny number of huge cities. And its just *not* true. I live in Rochester, NY and work at a company named Aurgen Communications. An internet development company for whom I design web applications, in an environment that is just as free as any startup firm in 'the valley'. I'm willing to bet that Buffalo(and most cities of any reasonable size) has its share of computer startups as well.
  • Oh, man . . . Could you imagine if we were like the auto-industry? If you dug around the foundation of the Redmond Giant you'd find all the dead bodies of the tech-union scabs buried up to their pocket-protectors in cement!

    Actually, do you ever wonder what happens to a lot of those MS competitors who seem to go under overnight? . . . Hm... Don Gates may have already had my vision years ago.

    "Hey, boss . . . You want I should put his geek-ass in cement loafers?"
    ---
    seumas.com

  • I would think a light rail system with park & ride lots near these housing developments would be very successful. A well designed bus system would help while still using the existing road system. There is a bus stop right in front of my work. I would much rather use it than driving, but I have to drop kids off at school so I could only use it for a few months of the year. It is nice to not have to worry about the traffic and I can read while going back and forth to work. I learned Java that way.

  • I agree you do have massive flamebait there.
    Last night I met up with some friends in San Fransico, and we bummed around, talked on radios and had an awsome time discussing technology. Later I saw a group of about 200+ rolerbladers just blading through the city. In Houston prices were nowhere near as high as they are here, but there wasn't the diversity. There also weren't hundreds of companies with job openings, granted the Television industry was a little easier to get into in Texas. This place isn't for everyone, but nobody left their heart in Los Angeles, or New York, and wrote a song about it!
  • We're having similar discussions in Ann Arbor, Michigan (home of the University of Michigan, lots of software companies, very tech-friendly, cable modems), tho on a much smaller scale. Lots of people moving in, lots of farmland in surrounding townships being built up, housing prices appreciating 10% or so a year, traffic getting to be a problem. Still, our definition of "insane" housing prices is California's definition of affordable, average house is $170K. I did the math and decided to stay put, commuting 3 miles from my condo to my current job.

    Problems? The usual suspects: idiot socialists running city government, cranking up property taxes (approaching $5K/year on that $170K house, tho much less in the townships), driving developers nuts with arbitrary rulings and delays, density restrictions, and what not. City Council is spending $$$ on consultants to help address the "affordable housing crisis" (hello, see property tax rates). Some parts of some townships mandate huge lots (10 acres!), which gobbles up ridiculous amounts of land. Lots of $400K McMansions being built to take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction (replacing that with a 5-figure personal deduction, as the Flat Tax proposed by House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Presidential Candidate Steve Forbes [forbes2000.com] would do, would do a lot to curb the speculative excesses of the housing market). Putting up high-rises (well, 12 floors?) in downtown Ann Arbor would make a lot of sense (tear down some crappy run-down student ghetto housing to make room), the one high-rise they did manage to build is supposed to be very nice (built back in the '60s), but again, local gov. gets in the way. (Used to work downtown, lots of software companies there, including Outrage Entertainment, lots of great restaurants, some loft apartments, hub of the first-rate bus system so you don't absolutely need a car. I took the bus to work. Borders flagship store is there too. Really miss that and the restaurants.) Nice thing about high property values is that it makes land-efficient (high rise) housing economical, but government gets in the way of this obvious free-market counterweight to runaway costs, so away we go.

    I keep waiting for big SV companies to build well-equipped high-density studio apartment housing for their (single) employees on company land, maybe add on a couple floors to office buildings, wire 'em up real well (direct Ethernet to the company's Internet feed), nice appliances and all that. Land cost is not a problem in this arrangement. Of course, the socialist legislature in the Peoples Republic of California (and their trial lawyer patrons) would probably get in the way. (Another nice thing about Michigan, state taxes are half that of California. Too bad the weather sucks 75% of the year...)
  • Not to mention that Wisconsin has kick-ass roads for bicycling. A gazillion paved country roads traveled most frequently by tractors and house-pulled Amish wagons. Paradise for any road cycling enthusiast (3 seasons of the year anyway).
  • Something needs to be done... public housing seems like an acceptable alternative to.. this.. I wonder why the prices are so high to begin with...



    Oh yeah, first comment :)
  • Frankly, I don't see your problem. I moved to CA five years ago and I was being paid less than $40k at the time. I had no problem whatsoever making ends meet and I lived alone. I was looking for a new place not too long ago and I checked in with the complex I lived in at that time. The rent on an apartment just like my old one had gone up by about $200/month which isn't bad for five years.

    Y'know, if people didn't think they needed 3000 square feet, a big honkin' SUV, and ski trips every weekend, $40k is certainly a living wage in this area.

    I still live in SV (Santa Clara) and in five years I've gone from $40k/year to $170k. Contrary to the assertions of some euro-trash twink elsewhere in the thread, I did it through technical excellence and hard work, not through marketing and politics.

    If you're making $43k now, you can make $70k in a year or two if you work at it. Of course, if you got terminated from any tech job in this area, either your company went toes up or you gave them an outrageously good reason to fire you, like incompetence, intransignence, or maybe just really really bad personal hygiene.

    The people who get the shaft here aren't the tech workers. The people in the sh*t are the unskilled ones. Those people working at Burger King or cleaning up your trashy high-tech office are the ones getting a raw deal. So are cops, firemen, and teachers. I don't know how *that* problem can be solved, but I do know that I can hardly stand to hear whining from incompetent and/or lazy tech workers when they could *easily* do better!
  • by PimpBot ( 32046 )
    This scares me...the average price of a home is ~$620 K??? At that kind of price, you might as well live at work.

    Actually, why don't employers offer that as a temporary solution? (I know, I know...very few people out there want to live at work, but to at least have a roof over your head, feel safe, and have AC when it gets bad out there...)

    Another question...how do home prices compare at various locations along the east coast (NYC, Atlanta, etc)?
    --------------------------
  • by Anonymous Coward
    And the most vapid money grubbing bastards come from there! Just kidding. Sort of.

    Code ANYWHERE in the mid-west. $100K will still get you a decent spread.

    Honestly, quite a few folks I work with come from Santa Clara, and they only miss the weather!!!

  • This type of proxying was not what I meant (I think either of us missunderstund the other). What i meant was that the local gov., or a company, hires busses/trains&drivers from the buss/train-companies and then acts as the only public transporter (Monopoly, that's why it shouldn't be a company; a private monopol is worse than a govermental, but in this case, there is a need for a virtual monopoly).
    This does not imply any taxes or subventions for neither those traveling by bus or by car, nor for those walking. It just makes it easy to travel from point A to point B, you just need one ticket, bought from one seller. Who does actually own the buss and employs the driver becomes unimportant.
  • I've actually seen some people move into their Cubes at Netscape. After all, you have everything you need their, Food, Showers, On Sight Laundry - The works. The number of futons underneath the desks there attested to how many people were sleeping there (Thought, this became less frequent in the year leading up to the AOL buyout)
  • Mmm. That's a *wonderful* sentiment. After all, its certain that once all the teachers, policemen, firemen, fast food people, clerks, and the myriad of people needed to make a city work leave due to the fact they just can't afford to life in SJ anymore all the tech workers will unite and do the work that's left!

    Hey..How good do you think a tech worker *is* at patrollign streets?
  • The light rail is almost worthless right now. In 5 years it might be worthwhile (it'll go to Mountain View and down Tasman past Cisco's huge complex). I used to take Caltrain to Menlo Park and loved it. I always read the paper in the morning and a computer or SF/Fantasy book on the way home. Now if there was more of this to the east bay, I'd do it again.
    This is real timely, since I hvae to move from my apartment in a month. It's becoming a HUD project for people who make SV minimum wage (read: $15.00/hr). Anyone know of an apartment complex near a Pacbell CO (dsl limitations) that allows cats for under 1,300/month for 1br/1ba? Didn't think so.


    _damnit_
  • by ksheff ( 2406 )

    While I understand how useful a SUV can be (a previous poster compaired them to a swiss army knife), I don't understand why people commute in them. Especially with the really big ones like a suburban. Why buy a $30K+ vehicle that gets maybe 10-15 mpg back and forth to work? You are risking it getting it hit by some idiot that doesn't know how to drive and putting more mileage on it driving down its value. I can understand why a friend of mine drives one. His Explorer is full of test equipment that he needs and he often has to go to construction sites that may or may not have decent access for his job. Seeing a 18ft SUV going down the road with just one person going to work in an office is crazy. Get a small Jeep or pick up all your buddies at work and carpool.

  • Thought, this became less frequent in the year leading up to the AOL buyout

    Pardon my ignorance, but why's that?
    --------------------------
  • you're really not getting the scale of the thing. my 1 bedroom in mountain view was $1600/mo, not $800/mo. it was just off castro street and probably above average, but still not that far out of line. i wised up, moved back to seattle and now i pay $385/mo to live in a vastly nicer neighborhood. even though i make a lot less money, i actually save more because the cost of living here isn't astronomical.


  • I've heard of people from several places (Provo, SLC, Sioux Falls, Rodchester, etc.) that were initially pleased to be picked as #1 in the Money Magazine Best Places to live survey. Then people from CA and other places began moving in bringing all the social ills along with them, ruining all what was good with the place in the first place. The next year the city drops a large amount of the MM list. It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the people who move and then go on public assistance as soon as they get there. A 2% unemployment rate doesn't always mean there are lots of new jobs.

    Money Magazine doesn't rank the cities 1-300 anymore. It categorizes each city in specific groups: NE, South, Midwest, West, Big, medium, small. Maybe this was the result of cities complaining of the influx of rif-raf after each one of these surveys came out.

  • Compared to CA real-estate prices, no it wouldn't be too bad. I'm sure prices in the sandhill section of the state is pretty cheap. But, just because land is cheap doesn't mean that everything else is cheap and you will be making a lot less than other places. Nebraska has a lot more people than say, Wyoming which has about 500,000 people.

  • Are you trying to insult us Mississippians? Eh? Eh? Don't make me get my gun (ok, I don't actually own any guns).
  • Make of it what you will, but over 50% of the land in SV is reserved, by government decree, for automobile use: freeways, streets, and parking.
  • You're assuming that the wealth creation driving new house buys is sustainable. Most of the new wealth in the last four years has been created by rising internet/tech share prices. If Yahoo and Ariba and the rest don't quickly (next two years?) bring their profits in line with their very ambitious valuations, Wall street will move on to the next big thing, and the resulting share price crash will take a lot of froth out of the housing market.
  • I've read news stories about Atlanta becoming the LA of the East as far as traffic congestion is concerned. The EPA is also clamping down on road construction because of the air polution problems, making the traffic congestion worse. It's too bad that bus systems across the country all seem to have one thing in common: they have routes and schedules that seem to encourage people to drive instead of using the bus. A friend of mine in Phoenix said he checked into riding the bus to work, but because of the screwy schedule and the number of transfers involved, it would be faster for him to ride a bike.

  • The real reason people don't like immigrants is a fear of competition. The unions(IEEE, AMA, NEA, Teamsters, etc.) hate the notion of actually having to compete for their job with someone who has a much better work ethic and desire to improve themselves. Personally, I work with several foreigners and recent immigrants. I could not ask for a better work experience. They are increasing my market value on a daily basis. If I want to learn about business, legal, and cultural issues in foreign countries that I might wish to do business in, I have an excellent source of input from a competent, intelligent, technical professional. The US is so hypocritical, we do anything we can to get foreigners to come our universities and then we kick most of them out of the country after they finish their schooling. Wouldn't it make more sense to encourage them to become productive and peaceful citizens. A sensible immigration policy would seek to keep violent criminals out of the US, no one else. As for the rest, many wish to come here simply for the opportunity to work, study, and raise their children in peace. I wouldn't mind having these people as my neighbors. Yes there are many who come here simply for the freebies(welfare, medicare, food stamps, etc.). However these freebies create just as many problems with our own citizens. Eliminate the freebies and let's see what happens.
    Stuart Eichert
    U. of PENN student/FreeBSD hacker
  • first, do you reallly think your 4.7L V8 gets anywhere near 15mpg in NYC??
    second, I think mini vans are ugly, and if I needed the space, I'd probably go with an SUV also
    third, what I really dont like about SUVs is that most people get them 'cause they're "cool" and dont give a damn that they only use it to drive 5m/hr in traffic on their commute...it's like people that go out and buy the biggest and best computer they can get, just to surf the web and send email...and they only do that cause "everyone" is doing it
    fourth, jeeps i can understand, Mercedes-Benz M-class? who's really gonna take one of those off road? get a hummer!

    and I hate the whole term SUV, its a jeep wanna be.
  • I wouldn't say that is "Tenent Favouring Law", I would say that is standard contract law. I mean, if the fool landlord is stupid enough to cash the check...DOH!

    ttyl
    Farrell
  • by Anonymous Coward
    As someone who has lived in the Bay
    Area in 91, here's a perspective:

    Back when I moved here, a high-tech
    company in San Francisco (where I actually
    live) was pretty unusual. The ones that
    existed (like, say Dolby Labs) existed
    because the founder wanted to have a good
    commute to their SF home.

    Now, in 99, when you look at "Bay Area IPOs"
    for a quarter, SF companies take two or three
    of the top 10 slots. Even assuming the other
    7 are all Silicon Valley, that's a big change.

    It happened, in part, because for a while there
    was lots of abandoned industrial space in SF
    that was available for cheaper prices than a
    Silicon Valley office park. At this point,
    those days are gone for SF.

    However, there are other Bay Area cities where
    there is space like this -- Richmond, Oakland,
    Alameda, all the blue-collar East Bay cities that
    thrived in the pre-container-ship maritime era,
    where lots of people and space were needed for
    a railroad/shipping hub.

    Yes, right now a lot of these neighborhoods are
    pretty rough -- but so were the SF neighborhoods
    a decade ago. Take a neighborhood like West
    Oakland, surrounded by docks and freeways, a
    lot of empty buildings -- it doesn't take much
    imagination to see 10,000 cubicles in these
    buildings in a decade ...

    These are the cities that also have good rail
    servive -- West Oakland has the best BART
    service of any station in the system, because
    all the trains funnel into it to go under the
    bay to SF.
  • (This may appear twice -- somehow, when I previewed the message, I was kicked into Anon and had to sign back onto my account)

    Just how many immigrants do you think are living in Silicon Valley? How many do you think are squeezing you out of a technical job?

    I'm not so sure some guy floating to Florida on a raft or Pedro, moving up from some South American city where you can't find clean water or employment is going to be stealing your IT job from beneath your feet.

    You're more likely going to be squeezed out by the effect of some companies on the bottom rung who hire employees who think Linux is an air-conditioner manufacturer and are baffled by the Windows Registry Editor (and pronounce SysOp Sigh-Sopp). This has to have some residual upward effect on the rest of us, no?
    ---
    seumas.com

  • He couldn't just pick up a phone, call the gas stations, and ask? Too bad I don't have the money, but I would like to get a VW diesel Jetta (or maybe a Bug). They get something like 48mpg and have an 800 mile range with one tank of fuel. It would be nice to visit my family and only have to fill up once. I tend to like smaller fuel efficient vehicles, not because I'm a tree hugger wanting to save the planet, but because I'm a cheapskate. I don't like paying much for anything. As a result, Linux appeals not only to my Unix geek side, but the skinflint side of my personallity.

  • San Jose requires 2.5 parking spaces per living unit.
  • I was using the term loosely.

    In the Bay Area, the transit systems are operated by separate agencies, which may or may not share tickets as you describe. It's a mess.
    The major systems are:
    BART: serving everywhere except Silicon Valley and San Mateo county (heavy rail).
    SF Muni: San Francisco transit agency. Some bus lines in SF have higher ridership than BART lines costing 100x more.
    Caltrain: SF-San Jose train line with a terminal 1 mile south of downtown or the nearest BART station in SF.
    Santa Clara Valley Transit: a bus system with some light rail. The major agency serving SV.
    There's a web site describing this at transitinfo.org [transitinfo.org]
  • Flamebait?
    I'm making a point, not poking a fight. The point I'm making is you can find excellent living at dirt cheap all over the place with great salaries at techy jobs without living in any kind of city, or technology centre, where everyone is overpaid to the point that they can't afford life any more.
  • "The value of the stock is determined solely by how much investors expect Microsoft to pay them in the future in dividends."

    So the investors looking for a 10% return (very low end) on their money are expecting MS to eventually pay out $50 Billion a year in dividends? Pretty darn unlikely!

    Even the experts don't agree on a method to assign a "value" to a stock. And market value is tossed around by earnings estimates, growth rate, volatility, and even good old fashioned speculation.

  • Funny thing is, Buffalo's a big college town (as is Rochester), but the kids all pack it in and head back to Lawn Guyland.. Sad, really, but if you're not a polar bear the winter winds can really knock you for a loop I guess.

    Too bad Pataki doesn't get smart and turn western NY into a huge 'Silicon Icebox' or something.. Offer tax breaks, financing, and services for entrepreneurial tech. Buffalo really needs something to replace its rusting heaps of industrial decay...

    (Besides, can you even get a decent wing in CA?)
  • My advice? give up your job. move to montana. buy 300 acres for pennies. start your own company. that is the only way to avoid big city (and surrounding area) rent/house costs. even though we all come from technical backgrounds we're forgetting that the very same technology we create permits us to do our work outside of the major met. areas. just fly to your clients every once in a while and develop off site. I know that this is not the best solution for most, but it can become the best solution if enough people adopt it. you say that demand is the reason why costs are so high? well, then eliminate the demand.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    A 2 bedroom place in Fremont (about 45 minutes from Santa Clara/San Jose) is $1300 for a fairly nice place(pool/tennis court/jacuzzi/gym.) A similar 3 bedroom is $1500. My same apartment was $1090 3 years ago though!

    Presently, I make about $60,000 on 4 years experience. I would say you need to make $75,000 to live comfortably in the apartment I live in but I share the place with another person.
  • My appologies then, that certainly wasn`t the intention.
  • If there are two places to avoid in FL though, they'd be Miami (LA's long lost twin) and Orlando. Be prepared to have high electric bills, due to using AC a lot.

    I second Orlando as a place to avoid. It is the worst suburban hell I have ever seen -- mile after mile of gated developments combined with poor schools and low pay. In addition, the wind blows from the south, so it has come about 300 miles overland and is therefore really hot.

    Add to the mix the never-ending line of clueless people in rental cars, and you have a disaster.

    If you want to live in Florida, try the Tampa Bay area (specifically Pinellas County). It's crowded and relatively non-cultural, but the cost of living is low and the pay is good. In addition, we have lots of tech companies (Jabil Circuit in St. Pete, Paradyne and Digital Lightwave in Largo, IMRglobal and Tech Data in Clearwater, ABR in Palm Harbor, and Reflectone in Tampa) as well as a decent public school system, a top-ranked community college (SPJC) and a well-respected university (USF).

    And you can't forget the beach. 35 miles up the Pinellas County coastline, and one of the top-ranked (by Conde Nast) beaches in the world on Caladesi Island.

    Also, Florida has a 6% sales tax (with a 1% local option by county) and no income tax. And I pay $1.21/gallon for premium gasoline.

    Mike
    --

  • From personal experience.......

    Memphis
    Not a bad place. I pay $700/month for a nice 2000 sq ft victorian with hardwoods in a decent neighborhood. You can get a cable modem, ASDL, or cheap ISDN. Decent music scene (birthplace of the blues and R&R, or so they say) with a yearly large music festival and multiple smaller festivals, Beale Street, etc. Decent food, though a little heavy on the barbecue. Crime is not the best feature, but it seems somewhat compartmentalized. No strong tech oriented university though, and not really a "tech" city, though tech jobs exist.
    Houston
    5 million or so. Cultural diversity and any cultural activity you want. Lots of tech jobs. Very affordable. Downtown doesn't really thrive after dark (unless you are a rollerblader), so you'll have to drive around to various hot spots for entertainment. Oh, and it's very hot and humid in the summer (but winters are mild).
    Austin
    Great place to go to college. A major tech town. Good music scene. Outdoors activities. SxSW. Real estate prices have risen sharply, but still more affordable than SV and many other big "tech" cities. Very hot in the summer.


    I'm interested in whether people believe that telecommuting is a viable model, and how important physical proximity is for software/web development. If Linux can be developed by internet collaboration, then why can't certain commercial ventures follow the same model? It seems like a handful of people with expert knowledge spanning the globe could run a successful business via internet collaboration (especially if it is an internet company). Certainly the talent pool on the internet is larger than the set of people living in any particular place.

    Do brains need to be in close physical proximity so that stimulating ideas can be exchanged and amplified? Isn't the net the best place to get and exchange ideas since it is readily accessable, easily searched, and has a much larger pool of ideas coming from people from all walks of life.
  • You may be right. I work for a startup in South Park that moved here from Australia, and we're refitting a big warehouse to hold 400+ cubicle monkeys. I hadn't been tracking the action down in SV (we only go down there to put machines into Global Center), but the tide may be shifting. And, there are still plenty of space left in SOMA, and there's living space too. For the past month I've been listening to a pile driver next door, putting up housing *across the street*.
    For those who live in SV, I'll clarify that last bit. It's not 10 miles away; it's not a mile away across the freeway. It's about 50 feet away, a new building with hundreds of housing units. I'm a little skeptical about the neighborhood, however, since it only has 2 markets and only a dozen or so restaurants within short walking distance. Simply deplorable living conditions ;-)
  • Your rent has gone up about 5.9% a year over those 17 years you've lived there. That isn't so bad.
  • I share a very small 3 bedroom apartment with two other people, right around Cleveland Circle. We pay $1650 all together, and next year it's going up to $1800. I'm moving out, because the place is too damn tiny to deal with for this sort of money. Good location, crappy apartment. I wish they hadn't gotten rid of rent control in Boston & Cambridge.
  • I never really liked Jacksonville very much. While there's no high speed access AFAIK, the panhandle's Gulf coast is a much nicer place to live.

    If there are two places to avoid in FL though, they'd be Miami (LA's long lost twin) and Orlando. Be prepared to have high electric bills, due to using AC a lot.
  • If you are renting in the valley, then housing is expensive: no doubt about it.

    But if you are buying, then housing is not an expense, it is an investment. A very good one, lately. My wife and I moved to San Jose less than three years ago and bought a house for $400K; it's worth at least $750K now. Viewed this way, the cost of living is extremely low. Negative, in fact: the appreciation in the house is easily more than all the money we've spent living here. (Of, course we have to move away to realize the profit.)
  • I've been studying the idea of living in a motor home. Most companies in SV have more land devoted to parking than to business, and these lots are empty at night...
    In SF if you go down to China Basin there are actually a large number of people living in campers and cars. There's actually a "vehicularly housed resident's association" there. It's the future.
  • We sure will not take second place to California on grounds of hill beauty ;) I've had friends visit from _Canada_ who were captivated by the beauty of Vermont and bitched about how, with the aid of a glacier, we stole all their good topsoil and deciduous trees ;)
    I have a friend who's been looking for an at least three-bedroom house, that has to be nice and not need much work. Her price range is pushing $100K, not $600K.
    I'm not 'pro' yet: and Vermont takes good care of its people- I'm taking advantage of low income housing and such things. I have a third-floor apartment, freshly painted, I don't pay heat in the Vermont winter and I don't pay hot water and the security deposit was negotiable. I have a bedroom almost three times the size of a queen bed to fit my twin-bed into, and a living room twice the size of that, and a view of the sunset over the mountain, and I'm right in town (for fairly humble values of 'town'.)
    The rent is $396 a month total, of which housing assistance is helping with most of that. My own yearly income is almost, but not quite, _eight_ thousand a year, and I'm not homeless. There's some chance that I can turn pro and start making some sort of a geek salary- possibly many times my eight thousand a year. It's very humorous and gratifying to me that geek salaries are normally supposed to be these outlandish figures- here in Vermont, you could buy whole towns with that. I'll stay here, thanks- even if I could only earn a max of 50K or something. Hell, the _luxury_ apartments here with a view of the river are only pushing $900 a month, and those are three times the size of my whole apartment, which is already twice the size of urban studios. o_O
    It _is_ hot: this is July. It's pushing 90 degrees these days. We're more known for cold ;) if you can't handle serious cold, don't even come here in the winter. On the other hand, you might like to come here for the skiing, for which we're also famous :)
    Come to Vermont... you know you want to...green mountains, fresh air, a more relaxed, human pace... ;)
  • Why don't businesses read this story by KPMG:
    http://www.kpmg.ca/vl/surveys/xs990311.htm

    They studied 10,000 cities around the world to find the best place to start a business. The city where I live, Sherbrooke, Canada ranks best.

    I prefer to live here and make $30,000 CDN per year than be broke at $70,000 US and live in a polluted city...

    JM
  • shhh... keep this place a secret! I'd like to keep on buying some good land to enjoy over the years... I'm still starting out and want some for myself. The last thing I need is for property values to skyrocket!
  • (AMA=="Atlanta Metro Area")

    (Last I heard, ~20% of Atlanta's 350,000 residents lived in low-income, so maybe Atlanta isn't that different. I haven't heard income statistics for those residents, though; some of them are probably at or below poverty line.)

    Someone mentioned $160-200K houses in Atlanta. That's actually Alpharetta, 20+ miles north of Atlanta. Anything inside the Perimeter seem to start at $250, unless there's crime/pollution in the neighborhood, or otherwise detractable situation. Apartments (again, North side), seem to be $900-1200/mo. for a 2BR/2BA.

    This is partially conjecture. Y'all Atlanta slashdotters let me know where I'm in leftfield...

    The real-estate prices in Atlanta are slightly deceptive, because you cannot live in AMA without a car. Period. I can gripe all day about Atlanta's rapid transit, but to sum up, it's useless. Two and a half train lines, and a spaghetti bus system, all of which extend from downtown outward in spoke fashion. Sounds nice, but the Road is what lines the pockets of the state DOT family, who have no interest in building expensive transit when they can build roads and let the citizens figure out how to get from A to B, while paying taxes on the cars/gas/maint. (the answer is SLOWLY).

    From the SV description I see, The main difference is that Atlanta growth is unchecked to the North, East, and West sides, whereas SV has land-use restrictions in place. Still, I consider $90-110K as a minimum for a house. They are running from South and center, like it were a natural boundary.

    However, Northside growth is starting to shut down for several reasons...(1) grass roots movement. OK, these folks wouldn't know grass if they tripped in their yard, but you've got a sizeable enough contingent of new residents to put political pressure on the native developers, who are drooling over the possible real-estate fortunes....Example: In the last round of elections, a northern county receiving a lot of this growth elected a "land management" Board of Commisioners to replace the "land development" BoC. So, the lame ducks proceed to rubber-stamp everything they get their hands on. (2) Traffic! For the above reasons, it sucks so bad, we're smogging up every day. That 47 (or 57 ?)mile average daily commute is probably at an average of 20 mph or less, given traffic conditions.

    So if construction outward slows down, and moving inward is unpractical, and more companies locate in the north end, we could see property prices crank up a couple of notches. We won't be SV East, but we may have similar effects...
  • I don't know if I'd live that far away from work, but I did used to commute. I used to work in Overland Park, KS and had a SO in Buckner, MO 55 miles away on I435. I also developed a good relationship with my lawyer who helped me keep my driving record clean, despite getting 5 nasty speeding tickets in one year. That was an expensive girlfriend, but it sure felt worth it at the time. I seem to be repeating history as I keep getting into these long distance relationships...
  • Very few in the this field are actually anything more than a high-tech hamburger-flipper and until technical professionals grow the balls to unite in some fashion, problems like this will continue and they will become worse.

    Auto-Workers wouldn't put up with this, they would have the UAW Union going to bat for them in a heart-beat. And you can be absolutely certain that government employees wouldn't accept this kind of predicament.

    I'm not suggesting that Unions are the absolute answer to everything, because they inevitably become corrupt (can you say NEA?). However, they do serve their purpose, and it would be better than making low-wages, working double-hours, and living in low-income housing.

    It is confusing sometimes, when you see people who have three children and work at McDonalds, but have a fairly nice apartment, cell phone and a nice late-model car. Meanwhile, a lot of us are struggling to pay our ISP each month (and our connection is a vital part of our employment!).

    And for what it's worth, a lot of places are having this problem. Portland and Seattle are horrible. In fact, a house gutted by fire (the roof, two walls, and the entire interior) was just sold for almost a quarter of a million dollars! I also know people who are paying $600/mo for a studio-apartment that is the size of three or four small cubicles, and they feel they have a bargain.
    ---
    seumas.com

  • I'm sick of the hidden racist agenda found in anti-immigrant policies. Do you realize how expensive things like vegetables would be without immigrant labor? Companies hire immigrants either legally or illegally because it's cheaper. This country was founded by immigrants and immigration should not stop. Unless you are a descendant of a actual Native American you have absolutely no reason to complain whatsoever.
  • I recently was terminated from MSN Hotmail... I only made 43.5k working from them, and could hardly afford a 1 bedroom junior apartment (with smaller square footage then most shitty slum-quality studios)...

    The sad truth behind this article is that without roommates, living in the bay can virtually be impossible.

    I remember my boss yelling at me when requesting 43.5... he wanted to pay me 38k or 33.5k... I mean fuck, I could hardly even afford living with a roommate paying half the bills when we shared a 1 bedroom apartment. (one of us staying in the bedroom, the other staying in the living room.)..

    It's a tragedy that managers in the valley consider this acceptable pay for doing junior, mid-level, or senior administration.

    And what's the saddest thing of all is that this kind of treatment came from Hotmail. Microsoft. figures. at least i dont work for the man anymore.

  • I'm muddling through the idea of buying a house here in Southern California. For anyone curious about the market, you might like to visit David's Dream House [amazing.com]. And if you don't live in Los Angeles, it might be worth a laugh or two.

    As a nice contrast to this, may I recommend The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit [behere.com]?

    D

    ----
  • "Maybe because my involvement with the true technical part of computer businesses are rather weak, but *why* does everyone have to locate in SV?"

    Read Jane Jacobs, _Cities and the Wealth of Nations_, _The Econonmy of Cities_, _Death and Life of Great American Cities_. In particular, C&tWoN goes into this question in some detail.

    Essentially, people have always gathered, physically, whereever economic activity was/is hottest. It allows greater commonality of understanding, easier exchange of ideas, faster formation of new businesses. When trade was the key to wealth, Philadelphia, New York, and Boson flourished. When heavy industry was king, Chicago and Detroit. Now technology is the key, so wherever there is a successful center of technology people and businesses will flock. Success breeds success.

    I have heard that the average techie stays in a SV job for 14 months. Bad for the HR dept. perhaps, but those people changing jobs are tremendous carriers of information, knowledge, and business capability. Exactly the same thing happened in Cleveland and Chicago during the early machine age: young man apprentices himself to the owner of a machine shop, learns the trade, rents a garage down the street and strikes out on his own. That kind of process can only occur when the cost of changing jobs is low. Telecommuting notwithstanding, that means geographic co-location.

    So don't expect a sudden exodus of high tech jobs from SV any time soon. The former headquarters of Spyglass is right across from my building in Champaign, IL, empty and waiting to be rented! While Netscape may be part of the AOL borg, they still exist in SV.

    sPh
  • I live in San Jose and a saw on the new a few weeks back that Santa Clara is now offering "low income housing loans" for people making under $100,000/year. As well, I recall that the richer part of Colorado Springs (or where the host ski spot is), also has low income housing loans for the poor saps making $100K.

    What I want to know is, where is the *cheapest* place in the US to live including cost of a T1/cable modem? That's one thing you don't hear much in reports of housing out here. There are hundrededs (well probably not that many) of ISPs here and internet access is cheap because of the competition. Now, I don't think I could live anywhere that leaves me with a modem as my only option.

  • Here are the corrected ones:

    http://www.amazing.com/david/dream-house/ - David's Dream House

    http://www.behere.com/ruins/ - Fabulous Ruins of Detroit.

    Sorry :-(

    D

    ----
  • by Gromer ( 9058 ) on Saturday July 17, 1999 @10:12AM (#1798191)

    The sale price of a house is an almost purely fictional value.

    No more or less so than any other price. The price of housing, like the price of pork bellies or any other commodity, is just exactly the equilibrium value between supply and demand. Things cost what they cost because that's how much people will pay in order to maximize the profit of the buyer and the seller. There is no more "real" quanitity underlying price. If you want to put it that way, all prices are "almost purely fictional."

    So, of course they want to sell it for as much as possible.

    Uhm, real estate is not exactly unique in this respect. Where I come from, people who sell things generally do so because they want to make money. When I buy a sandwitch from the deli, they want to sell it for as much as possible. As it turns out, "as much as possible" turns out to be about $4.50, because if they charged any more, the losses from people who don't buy sandwitches will outweigh the gains from the increased price. Ditto real estate. The only difference is that people want a house a LOT more than they want roast beef on sourdough, and that difference in desire maps directly onto an increase in price.

    There hasn't been enough of a tangible change in that property to justify it's suddenly increased value.

    Yes there has. Silicon Valley has suddenly become a black hole of employment for anyone under 30 with a university education. It's nearly impossible to work in Silicon Valley if you live in New York. Therefore lots of people want to buy houses in S.V. More people want it, therefore it is more valuable. That's all there is to it. If a real estate prices a house at more than it's worth, the agent will get offers that are below the asking price. If the agent won't sell for less than the asking price, the buyers will go buy a house fron another, more reasonable agent, who will soon be much richer than the first one.

    You keep referring to "the concrete value" of a thing, as though there really were such a thing, outside of how much people will pay for it. There isn't. Take gold. What is the concrete value of a gold bar? Can a chemist measure it's "concrete value" with the right tools? What are it's units of measure (in metric, of course)? The price of gold has been falling for years. Is there some undocumented physical process going on by which the "concrete value" is seeping out of the world's gold? Of course not. There's no such thing as "concrete value." There's just "value." It's units of measure are Dollars (or Yen or Pounds or Euros or whatever), and the only way to measure value is to try and sell it and see what people will pay.

    You're right, liquidating MS would not produce $500 billion in assets if liquidated right now. But so what? The people who are paying for Microsoft stock think it's worth $500 billion, and so it is. Part of their calculation of that value is that Microsoft is extremely unlikely to totally liquidate itself in the near (or even long-term) future. It may be broken up by the courts, but that arguably will not result in the destruction of that much value.

  • Does anyone know the economics on constructing modern highrise buildings for a place like Silicon Valley? If the costs of earthquake-proofed tall buildings are not prohibitive, it sure seems that it would be worth it to rezone places to allow highrises with hundreds of apartments/condos, gigabit ethernet connections in every room, with startup-incubators, meeting rooms, etc. for the entrepreneurially inclined in the same building.

    What are the obstacles?
  • by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Saturday July 17, 1999 @12:23AM (#1798193) Homepage Journal

    Welcome to the dark side of the free market.

    It's not like everyone out here is gouging. In fact, it's all too easy to find stories of people putting their house up for sale and receiving offers above the asking price. Interest rates are low, money is plentiful (for the moment), and housing is in very short supply, so prices are high for those units that are available.

    Apart from building more houses and easing the space crunch, it's difficult to see how this problem could be addressed. I can assure you rent control will not go over well here. It's also difficult to make the ethical case that some outside agency (government, whatever) should be able to tell people what they can/can't accept for their property.

    However, one of the Bay Area's hallmarks is its commitment to open space preservation and well-planned, environmentally sensitive growth. So it's not really possible to plop a couple thousand housing units on a vacant sector of land. One needs only to look at the Los Angeles Metroplex for an example of what happens with unplanned development.

    This problem will eventually solve itself as more housing units are built and companies establish remote offices or encourage telecommuting (the advent of the Internet makes this even easier than before). Howver, I think a rather more serious problem needing worrying about is what is going to happen to the banks holding mortgages on these properties when the bubble finally bursts. I'm concerned that property values may fall to as little as half their present level, and banks will be left with X dollars loaned out against collateral worth X/2. About the best we can hope for is that the fall won't be precipitous.

    The first speedbump in this roaring market will happen around 1 January, 2000, if for nothing other then purely psychological reasons. If nothing else, it's going to be an interesting ride.

    Schwab

  • ...course alot of things are adjusted...

    Based on the numbers, stay in Athens!! As usual, the cost of living in SV looks to be more 'adjusted' than pay is :-)

    Personally, I'm in Lithonia (next to Stone Mountain).

  • Here are the corrected ones:

    http://www.amazing.com/david/dream-house/ - David's Dream House

    http://www.bhere.com/ruins/ - Fabulous Ruins of Detroit.

    Sorry :-(

    D

    ----
  • "Are you on crack? Have you ever been to Boston? A grid?"

    Boston is clearly not a grid. But Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York (somewhat, also clouded by ease of water transport) _are_ all railroad cities. By that I mean that the outer edges of the cities, and the inner ring of suburbs, were developed around commuter railroads in the 1860-1920 period (although oddly enough this pattern continues today in Chicago). As the cities were filled in around the railroads, they naturally developed in patterns that made it possible to live using only public transportation.

    Today, although automobiles have been overlaid onto this structure, the underlying pattern still exists. Therefore it is possible to find ways of life that don't involve dependence on the auto. {Disclosure: when I lived in Chicago I owned two cars, but I did 60% of my _commuting_ on public transit. So I am neither a transit fanatic nor a car hater)

    If, however, this pattern doesn't exist, it is almost impossible to overlay it on an automobile-based design (modern St. Louis, Atlanta, LA, etc). The infrastructure and patterns of life just aren't there. Plus the zoning laws make it impossible to build "the old way".

    Although... I was reading in "Trains" just the other day how development of commuter rail was pushed forward 3-4 years after the last big California earthquake (Loma Preita? I can't remember). New track was laid on abandoned ROW, trainsets borrowed from Toronto, and rail service started in 2 weeks while the rubble was still being cleared from the highway overpasses. So maybe there is some movement for change.

    sPh
  • And the roads are too crowded and narrow in Sunnyvale to ride a bicycle. If you're a mountain biker you can maybe brave the potholes and ramp the sidewalks, but that's pretty dangerous.
  • First off, I live in the Valley. Mountain View, to be precise. I used to live in Boston. I've gone from spliting a $1500 1400 sq ft flat to a $1200 600sq ft 1-br. Not alot of fun.

    The problem here is a simple one: No space for new housing, and an influx of people. A secondary issue is the massive amount of wealth that has been suddenly created by the Internet IPOs over the last 2 years. It's a simple Adam Smith problem of supply vs. demand (and ability to pay).

    As other people have mentioned, there is a heavy commitment to retaining the larger open spaces here for recreation and preservation. And I can't say I'm really sorry about that (it's actually nice to go biking along the San Andreas :-). The result, though, is that the only real places to build, given the geography, are East (Walnut Creek and such) and North (Marin County).

    Now we run into the Curse of Silicon Valley: the world's shittiest public transporation system. There are like 6 million people in the Bay Area. Yet, for all practical purposes, you can't ride any public transporation to work. The system is really a conglomeration of about 15 independently run trains, buses, and light rail, none of which are coordinated with eachother, or connect in any sane manner. So you have to drive to work. And there are huge choke points to getting places, which can't really be fixed (like the GG and Bay Bridges). So, living in Marin County and working in Cupertino isn't an option (can we say a 3-4 hour commute?)

    Moving from Boston was a harsh blow on this regards. You could actually live 50 miles from work and only have to drive to the local train stop (maybe 1-2 miles) to get into downtown. Hell, the bus/subway system was so good that you could practically get from any point inside of I-95 to any other point inside with only a couple of blocks walking, total.

    Don't I wish this was the case here in the Valley.

    Until the Bay Area gets it's head out of it's ass and manages to coherently plan and build a regional transit system, the housing prices will get worse. 'Course, the system should make the Big Dig ($10+ Billion) look like chicken feed when it comes to cost. But it's the only way. Too bad it won't happen before I leave.

    I'm buying a house this winter. Expect to pay about $.5m for it, and get a lower-middle-class house I'll do work on. Figure to sell it about 2005 and move somewhere else where the housing prices are sane. 'Course, I might just make $100k or more, since prices are climbing about 10% or more per year.

    What's the old saying? Takes Money To Make Money?

    -Erik

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 17, 1999 @01:57AM (#1798240)
    This makes no sense to me. Why would anyone want to live is SoCal and spend four hours a day in traffic?

    I live 12 miles from work, it's a 15 minute drive through three towns and one national park. With today's communications infrastructure, it no longer matters where you live. Why live there?

    The biggest problem I see is the street layout is "off the grid." In Chicago proper, the streets are straight and laid out at right angles, with few exceptions. It's so easy to drive, well, except for the new fad of double parking. Even when the Edens Expressway was shut down for two years, there wasn't the traffic catastrophe you see in SV. The cars just melted into the grid.

    In the western 'burbs, like Arlington Heights and such, the streets are curly-cue like in SV. Multiple massive housing developments dump in one or two eightlane arteries that are ALWAYS choked. There is no way to develop mass transit with these housing patterns.

    The phenomema that causes sky-high housing prices is that curly-cue streets, while causing traffic congestion, also cause a low density of housing, which causes a shortage, which drives up prices.

    Putting housing and streets on the grid results in a high density of housing, which increases supply and lowers prices.

    The best thing about grid layout, though, is you can actually walk to places from your house or apartment. Walk to the park, restaurant, store, whatever. In curly-cue, you drive to the Jewell, then get back on the drag to your next stop. You're just adding to congestion and stress.

    For me, the best move was not geographic. It was getting out of towns with messed up streets, and moving back to a place with a rational street layout.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    That's almost exactly what happened here in Sweden about
    8 years ago.

    Many companies thought that investing in real estates was a
    good business, so they bought a lot of houses, especially in
    the central areas of bigger towns. This increased
    interest in real estates led to higher prices, which made more
    people think that investing in real estates would be worthwhile,
    buying more houses and accelerating the spiral even more.

    A lot of companies then started to take expensive loans, using
    their allready bought houses as security and the banks were
    just all too happy to make even more business.

    This sudden demand for new houses made the construction
    companies very busy and they had the time of their life. Building
    more and more new houses, making more of a profit and
    employing more people.

    Then, when the companies discovered that there was not
    enough demand for their appartments (after all, we're just 9
    million citizens) they panicked and tried to sell them
    as fast as possible and that way bursting the bubble.

    The result was that a lot of these real estate companies and
    building companies went bancrupt, spreading chaos in
    the economy.

    The government had to intervene and shell out loads of
    money to prevent the involved banks from going bancrupt,
    which otherwise would have wrecked even more havoc to
    the economical system.

  • Maybe because my involvement with the true technical part of computer businesses are rather weak, but *why* does everyone have to locate in SV?

    First, it's understandable that existing businesses aren't going to be moving anytime soon.

    It's also understandable that most employees will want to be near a major cities for their cultural/ entertainment needs.

    And then there's the factor of being close to other similar business in order to do business with them.

    But, as the ad from an IBM commercial above indicates, why not start these startup companies in other tech-savvy areas of the country - Dallas, Houston, Boston, etc.? The internet make nearly all business-related concerns negliable - You can video conference, share code and documents, and a whole bunch of stuff, and rather cheaply too.

    IMO, I cannot find pity for the situation save for those 'poor' workers. I was in SF about 2 years ago for a few days, and even then, saw was the Valley's cost of living is. It's a situation that seems to have been let build to this point by the 'high culturites' of SF and those that provide the services of living.

  • by LS ( 57954 )
    I can't believe all the posts in response to this article... come on: "Oh, I have to live with someone to afford rent"; "I'm only making 45k"; "Expensive Sweatshops"; "The Darkside of the free market".

    You people are on top of the world right now. You're making a killing financially. Leave this kind of whining to the NBA.

    -LS

  • Zoning laws (and similar contstraints on developers) create artificial scarcity. No matter how expensive the land, it would be possible to build affordable housing on it (probably by building up).

    So clearly the local zoning boards are happy with the current situation - high prices and all (more fools they). Although if firemen, cops, and teachers can't live there, then the quality of essential services will decline, putting a damper on property values in a most unplesant way (the market will not be denied).

    Disclaimer: I don't live anywhere near Silicon Valley - I live in NJ. (But some things are the same all over.)
    --

  • Its no secret that a lot of WC companies are moving more operations to the East Coast. Sun just built a massive facility in Burlington MA. It will eventually hold 2,500. Oracle just announced that its build a new campus in MA for 1,000 people and it will still have a NH campus for about 500 people.

  • Many of the problems discussed on this page (especially the public transportation issues) could have been anticipated with a couple of runs with Sim City... :)
    --
  • by tgd ( 2822 ) on Saturday July 17, 1999 @04:11AM (#1798277)
    God, this pro-tech-union crap is getting so old. Are people really that dense? Does any of the people who think a union would be any good at all have any concept of labor relations or what a problem unions are when they're in industries like the high-tech ones today -- where the best vote people have is with their feet.

    The problem here isn't the businesses. The businesses can't control the cost of housing or the fact that there is a shortage, just as they can't control the fact that there are far few qualified workers for the positions they've got than there are positions open. The latter pushes salaries up, the former pushes housing up, neither are the fault of the corporations, and neither can be controlled by a union!

    I just can't figure out what that's so unclear to some people. What do you want, a union to force salaries to be even higher? Get real. They're too high as it is. (Not that I'm complaining!) But companies are being crushed under the pressure of extremely high IT salaries. Its common in companies for mid-level IT workers to be making as much as upper management, which causes a lot of friction in the companies. The only companies not feeling the crunch are the ones with billions of virtual dollars from over-priced stock valuations, which have a suprise coming to them when (not if) the market crashes. (Which it will, any second year economics student knows the economy is in a non-sustainable pattern, and none of the internet companies can justify 1/100th their stock value!)

    This is just like the B.S. in that story about 60 and 80 hour weeks that was posted on slashdot a week ago. IF YOU"RE NOT HAPPY WITH YOUR SITUATION, YOUR FEET TALK LOUDER THAN YOU CAN! Leave your job. Take another. Unless you're fooling yourself about your skill level, you should have no problem. You'll probably get a raise. And if you've got a family and are concerned about being able to provide for them, there's quite a few technology hot spots in the mid-west, Dallas, or places like North Carolina where the pay is less, the cost of living is a lot less, and you won't be griping about being poor making $60,000 a year.

    If YOU Seumas, are making low wages, working double hours or living in low income housing, I'd suggest another career or a serious rethinking of your strategy in planning your career. Because its not hard these days to make a very comfortable living working the hours you want and living in a rather nice house. If you (or anyone else on Slashdot) isn't, than you're making bad choices, and that's not anything a union can fix. Unions make bad choices for everyone. At least bad choices you make don't affect me or anyone else right now.

    High property rates (you meantioned $600 for a small studio) are nothing new, and not IT-related. Apartments in central Boston have always been more expensive than even that -- I know people spending $1600 a month on a one bedroom... NYC is high, I almost spent $1300 on a studio. If you choose to work in any job in a city, you're choosing the higher cost of living for a shorter commute, or other benefits of city life. Can't hack that? Bad choice on your part, yet again.

  • Cheap place to live? Try Starkville, Mississippi. Bought my house for $6,500. Sure, its a trailer. Tech jobs start at $40,000. Lots of pretty land, hunting and fishing is good. Save that extra money to buy a boat, 4x4 monster truck, a vette, etc... If the cheap housing is too cheap, there are the fine estates that run in the millions. We have cable modem and adsl is on the way.
  • by Woodie ( 8139 ) on Saturday July 17, 1999 @05:04AM (#1798285) Homepage
    Hey -

    Silicon Valley isn't the only place that has high prices on real-estate:

    Boston is climbing that ladder too. Right now, the average price per square foot of office space in Boston is higher than Manhattan's. That's saying something. The average 1 bedroom rental is around $800/mo. A lot of this is due to the abolishment of rent control, and the "gentrification" of various neighborhoods.

    The prices of homes in the Boston area (all the way out to Rt 128, which encircles the greater Boston area) seem to be at a minimum $300,000. While this in no way compares to the situation in Silicon Valley (a single floor ranch that an older couple sold, went for 2.1 Million), it is indicative of a series of related problems...

    1> The sale price of a house is an almost purely fictional value. Think about it - I mean, I know "land appreciates in value" - but does the house as well? Almost anything else you buy depreciates over time. Granted, land is in finite supply - thus it's value will increase as the demand for it increases - but the house on that land should really depreciate, unless it is substancially improved.

    2> This increase in price stems from a vested interest on the part of two parties - the owner, and the real-estate agent responsible for selling the property. Keep in mind that the agent gets a percentage cut of the sale price! So, of course they want to sell it for as much as possible.

    3> Like the stock market, the real estate market is so over inflated it's incredible. Essentially they are creating money out of nothing. There hasn't been enough of a tangible change in that property to justify it's suddenly increased value. However, when the property changes hands again, the goal is of course to sell it for even more! Thus further inflating it's price without regard to it's actual concrete value.

    4> We are, in the age of "information" and as such, we are often concerned more with increasing the value of things rather than the actual worth of things. By value, I mean percieved dollar worth of something. By worth, I mean the tangible concrete value of something.

    Look at Microsoft - they are worth over $500 billion - the next closest company is GE, and they are only $300 billion or so. If you liquidated MS - would their assets in any way come close to $500 billion? I know that value is based on their possible future earnings (ignore any possibility of an OS revolution here for a moment) - but do you really think that 5 years from now they'd be worth 500 billion in assets?

    Sorry for the rant - but this is something I feel pretty strongly about. The housing situation in some parts of the country is merely a symptom of how far out of whack we've become. Just because someone will pay it doesn't mean you should take it.

    - Woodie
  • The sale price of a house is an almost purely fictional value. Think about it - I mean, I know "land appreciates in value" - but does the house as well? Almost anything else you buy depreciates over time.

    This is not exactly true for a number of reasons. An older house is actually worth more than a newer one because it has "settled", and has gone through any problems that can crop up early.

    Foliage around the house and the general neighborhood is also more mature for older houses which can be quite a draw. Nothing like a 100 year old oak in the backyard!

    Architecture and construction is also a benefit to older houses - frankly, they really dont make 'em like the used to (lead paint as well as sturdier walls!)

    That's really a side point, and in general I agree with your assesment - the price of a house is really artificial for the most part. But even in a flat market, I would think you would still see appreciaition for a house over time to some extent.

    We face the same problem here in Denver, not at the same scale yet but you can see it heading that way.

  • by IntlHarvester ( 11985 ) on Saturday July 17, 1999 @07:13AM (#1798305) Journal
    This problem will eventually solve itself as more housing units are built

    Unfortunately, in the Silicon Valley, this isn't going to happen. The geography of the SF Bay Area is a large body of water surrounded by a relatively narrow strip of flat land surrounded by a set of hills that are largely undevelopable. The flatlands are largely full - there simply isn't any more land to build.

    Furthermore, the built part of the SV consists largely of poorly planned 60s and 70s low density large lot development. With land values the way they are, one would think that increasing density would be a no-brainer, but try telling that to the home owning political constitancy in Mountain View or Cupertino. Ain't going to happen.

    So, yes, new housing is being built - in Livermore and the Central Valley. Same sort of inefficent sprawl development, except this time on valuable farmland. Some of these developments are closer to Sacramento than San Jose. The Freeway system connecting these new housing developements to the jobs is already way over capacity -- commute times between Livermore and San Jose will soon be about 2 hours. Is it reasonable to expect people to do this?

    Would companies relocate to the edge? Some (like PeopleSoft) have, but this makes doing business with them inconvient for the other 8 million people in the bay area. Unfortunately, where the executives live generally has more influence over a company's location than where affordable housing is. Remote offices just make it even more expensive to do business in the bay area.

    You're right that there's not much that could be done here from a regaltory standpoint. Not unless you can convince the average SV suburb's planning board to throw out their master and start redeveloping everything. The problem could be fixed for the new developments, but the chance that Tracy or Gilroy is going to look past the big pile of developer dollars waving in their face is pretty low.

    And, yes, there is a lot of land speculation going on. Much of this is due to the pent-up demand created by the burst of the last land speculation bubble in the late 1980s. Your're correct that this bubble is bound to burst too. There's also an enourmous amount of wage inflation, much of it required to attract talent to SV. Anyway, Hang on, because things will bottom out eventually!
    --
  • "Hey, I don't have the balls to demand more money or am too lazy to look for another job...

    And without a union, for every person who does demand a living wage, there will be twelve others who will take what they can get. Look for another job, and the same situation will apply.

    The problem may be self correcting, but the correction is really going to hurt. Unless the situation is corrected, SV will become a ghost town.

  • Eliminate zoning laws, and the price of corrugated steel will skyrocket. A severe shortage of refrigerator boxes would ensue.

    You're thinking of building codes. I don't think there's any argument that USA building codes are broken.

    Zoning laws specify what you can build where. They also specify how far your house has to be from the street, how many parking spots the local 7-11 has to provide, and what color you have to paint your factory. In someplaces Zoning makes it illegal to put a TV antenna on your roof or hang laundry up in your back yard.

    (Note that I don't think eliminating zoning is a good idea. Severe reform, yes.)
    --
  • You know if you're a redneck if ....

    -E
  • Woodie (nevyn@nowhere.net) wrote:

    > Boston is climbing that ladder too. Right now,
    > the average price per square foot of office
    > space in Boston is higher than Manhattan's.
    > That's saying something. The average 1 bedroom
    > rental is around $800/mo.

    Actually, Manhattan is still way higher than that, I'm afraid. I'm being forced to move, and have been looking for a new apartment for the past couple of weeks. Any 500 square foot studio in any halfway decent neighborhood costs about $1000/mo. One bedrooms start at around $1500. Yes, there are a few one-bedrooms cheaper than that, but in most of those the bedroom is actually smaller than my queen-sized bed (I actually measured it), or in really bad areas to live in. If you want an apartment with some basic luxuries, such as elevator access, or air conditioning, or dishwasher, or laundry room in the same building, then we're talking over $2000/mo very easily. And that is nowhere near the prices if you want to be in one of the better neighborhoods.

    This is why there is a great exodus of young professionals moving to Brooklyn, and commuting to Manhattan. Larger apartments, quieter, really good food, and much cheaper.

    Later.
  • Now we run into the Curse of Silicon Valley: the world's shittiest public transporation system.

    Don't forget that transportation and land development policies go hand-in-hand. Some systems work (like BART), because they go to high density areas (like downtown SF). Others are fundementally broken (like CalTrain), because they go to sleepy places like Downtown Mountain View. (Mountain View has thousands of jobs, however only about 100 of them are in the downtown.)
    --
  • ... Does that include crack? Or has your mayor smoked it all?

    <rant='morons_who_elected_barry.rnt'<ObDCSwipe</ rant>
  • I lived in Kansas City between Mission Hills and the Plaza where the average price of a house was $500,000. For some reason, it was a very boring place to live. Too crowded. Seemed like everyone was in a conspiracy to make the most money and show it. So now I get some land from which I can hunt, fish, and watch the sunsets. Quite a change from the city life!
  • Cheapest place to live has to be Mississippi. The question is, do you want to live there? Not unless you like hunting, fishing, monster trucks, red necks, and shotguns in rear windows. A liking for chewing tobacco can help too (grin).

    Really, the biggest problem with going with a really cheap place like that is one of job diversity. I lived in Louisiana for quite some years (same thing as Mississippi, except with better food, grin), and while I had no problem finding a job, they were all pretty much the same -- specialty software for local conditions (e.g., school administration software to handle Louisiana state laws, accounting software to handle Mississippi rules regarding contractors doing business with the state, etc.), or if you were more of a consultant than developer, you got to install lots of Windows NT LAN's. That gets boring after a while, unless you LIKE wearing suits (because you have to spend a lot of time in meetings with government bureaucrats and businessmen).

    I'd suggest going to one of the larger cities that have a reasonable cost of living but are not in the Silicon Valley. It's even better if there's recreation nearby. Atlanta is ok in the Southeast, though the Blue Ridge park is a bit far if you're an outdoors type and there's a few too many "suits" for my tastes. Phoenix, where I live now, has a lot of mountain preserves if you like hiking, plus a national forest (no trees in it though, it's desert!) for longer hikes and water sports (well, there is a river through it, though the dams stop all the water before it gets to Phoenix). Raleigh-Durham? Better have at least a MSCS, it's more of a think-tank type environment than a Silicon Valley-ish startup type environment. Dallas? You can make lots of money in Dallas, but it must be the most boring city on the planet. Dallas is so boring that half of Dallas crosses the border into Louisiana on the weekends to visit the gambling casinos and eat Louisiana food. Austin is great, lots of jobs, lots of outdoors activities nearby, a really rockin' music scene. San Antonio is nice too, though not as much variety in high-tech jobs, and not the same kind of music scene as Austin (still has a good variety though).

    Somebody mentioned Jacksonville, Florida. While that's reasonable if you like the beach, it's otherwise a quite forgettable city, and while hurricanes usually diverge northward or southward, it IS on the coast, and hurricanes usually do hit within a few hundred miles of Jacksonville on a regular basis.

    Anyhow, I think I managed to insult everybody here (especially Yankees up north, who are probably furious that I didn't mention their favorite ice-shrouded corrupt dirty expensive city in the Rust Belt!), so I'll go now :-).

    -E
  • by sjames ( 1099 )

    Atlanta metro area, new home lower 100,000s

  • It's a well-known fact among architects that traditional American small towns would be illegal under current zoning laws.

    If you go down to Los Gatos and look at the Victorian neighborhoods that everyone is paying millions to live in, you'll find that it's impossible to build those sorts of neighborhoods today. The idea of people living and working in the same building is also illegal, as is building housing without government-mandated quotas of parking spots, even if your tenants are too poor or enlightened to use motor vehicles.

    Silicon valley is the apotheosis of stupidity. People there are good at making chips, and bad at designing communities, if you could call them that.
  • Let's not forget Denver. Sun Microsystems opened up its central region headquarters in Broomfield. There's areas where open space stretches clear to the horizon. Let's see how long it takes to fill it all up. Strip malls all the way from Boulder to Colorado Springs most likely.
  • "Eliminate zoning laws, and the price of corrugated steel will skyrocket. A severe shortage of refrigerator boxes would ensue"

    I can't agree. You might want to scan through _Crabgrass Frontier_ or _A Pattern Language_ (don't have the authors at hand but both are in print) for a better written discussion than I can provide. But here goes:

    Although zoning has many purposes, chief among them is to enforce social conformity and keep "undesirables" out of certain areas. Zoning provisions such as miminum garage/driveway sizes, maximum FAR (floor-area ratio), mimimum lot sizes, mimimum setback provisions are very often designed specifically to keep out "bad" development: row houses, low price houses, apartments, etc. Which just happens to be the type of housing that lower income people can afford.

    Even something as subtle as the stair standards in the Uniform Building Code have their affect. The stairway code is dictated largely by the NFPA (fire protection codes and standards). Now, I can understand why firefighters want pitch and headroom restrictions on stairs. But the fact is the UBC stairway code makes it impossible to build an _affordable_ two story house on a reasonably sized lot. If my turn-of-the-century craftsman four square is blown away by a tornado tomorrow, I would not be allowed to rebuild it: there just isn't enough room for the stairs and the setback requirements. Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of these have existed in the Midwest since 1900.

    I have a hard time believing that fire fighting requirements are the _only_ reason that is so.

    Anyway, that's my rant for today!

    sPh
  • double
    raise_rent(double rent)
    {
    if (no_people > no_homes)
    rent *= rent;

    return (rent);
    }
  • Hey guy, I own a farm in the hills of Louisiana, so I can sympathize (grin). But the jobs available were just TOO boring! I mean, I could be making the same amount of money back home as I'm making in Phoenix, and it'd go a lot farther, but that would be writing accounting software in *COBOL*. (Not that there's anything wrong with COBOL for accounting software, but you must admit that it's not the most thrilling of environments).

    Actually, I have more hiking opportunities available here in Phoenix than I had back home (if you don't watch your step back home, somebody will shoot you for trespassing on their back 40). So I'm pretty happy as far as that goes. The city itself is pretty forgettable (miles and miles of ticky-tacky taco-bell houses with beige stucco and tile roofs, interspersed with huge Motorola and Intel foundaries and various warehouses for Insight and etc.), but I'm not much of a "city scene" type anyhow. And the cable modem ROCKS! And we have Fry's. What else does a geek need!?

    -E
  • Christopher Alexander et al are the authors. Fascinating book, but you might be better off starting at his overview, A Timeless Way of Building. Visit Amazon for them, there are some interesting reviews there, too.

    I found both books to be compelling reading - I was a little surprised the quality of writing was so high.

    D

    ----

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