I may have a housing problem next year


I’ve been trying to sort out the question of what I will do about moving by next June 29, 2021. It looks like affordable rents in major metropolitan areas are hard to come by,[1] even around here.[2]

One of the oddities of my current situation is that where I’ve seen Aion, which owns the complex I live in now, before, on the San Francisco peninsula, the apartments are all high-end luxury complexes meant to appeal to well-paid tech workers. So I have to very strongly suspect that what’s going on here is what Alison Johnson said of Atlanta: “Landlords want to raise rents as high as possible to attract higher-income people into those units.”[3]

My apartment isn’t large—536 square feet—and an initial perusal finds many around Pittsburgh, even in outlying areas, with even less space renting for a lot more. It’s an old complex, even if my apartment is relatively nice on the inside, occupied mainly by working class and poor people, many of color. Hence, I suspect, figure 1, just a very short drive away. This complex is distinctly out of character for what I’ve seen with Aion on the San Francisco peninsula.
Fig. 1. Gratuitous gun on display at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post on Cochrans Mill Road in South Park, Pennsylvania. Photograph by author, October 27, 2019.

Do I suspect gentrification? Hell, yes. I’ve suspected it very nearly since I moved in. I don’t know how well it will work, although there’s a new complex, only partly complete and still under construction, nearby that’s very clearly meant for better off folks.

Meanwhile, I’m hearing enough horror stories from passengers to know that there are plenty of slumlords around here who operate pretty much with impunity.
Fig. 2. Colin Woodard’s sociocultural regions.[4]

At the moment, I’m very much feeling damned if I do, damned if I don’t. I’m not really comfortable moving into a more conservative area, like West Virginia or Ohio, or really any county around Allegheny County, which I’m finding plenty conservative enough (although Butler County might work).

On a recent foray into Beaver County, I saw lots of “Why I Stand” banners prominently displayed in multiple locations, featuring the U.S. flag. I’m pretty sure these refer to Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest.[5] I think Colin Woodard’s mapping of Greater Appalachia (figure 2) does not extend far enough north.

If I move north, say into what Woodard calls Yankeedom (figure 2), I face a more severe climate, which could also mean even less business for Uber and Lyft in winter. It was hard enough even getting through this last winter in Pittsburgh.

The known random element in all this is the pandemic, which as a country, the U.S. is just handling all wrong. As the economy gets worse,[6] Aion might find a wrench in its monkey works.


Nesrine Malik, “It’s no accident Britain and America are the world’s biggest coronavirus losers,” Guardian, May 10, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/10/anglo-american-coronavirus-crisis

  1. [1]Kate Gibson, “Minimum wage doesn’t cover the rent anywhere in the U.S.,” CBS News, June 14, 2018, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/minimum-wage-doesnt-cover-the-rent-anywhere-in-the-u-s/; Michael Sainato, “‘We’re technically homeless’: the eviction epidemic plaguing the US,” Guardian, February 11, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/feb/11/us-eviction-rates-causes-richmond-atlanta
  2. [2]Ryan Deto, “The displacement of Anthony Hardison from his Lawrenceville apartment is a microcosm of a neighborhood epidemic,” Pittsburgh City Paper, January 15, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/the-displacement-of-anthony-hardison-from-his-lawrenceville-apartment-is-a-microcosm-of-a-neighborhood-epidemic/Content?oid=16556108
  3. [3]Alison Johnson, quoted in Michael Sainato, “‘We’re technically homeless’: the eviction epidemic plaguing the US,” Guardian, February 11, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/feb/11/us-eviction-rates-causes-richmond-atlanta
  4. [4]I believe I found this map in an online article, probably at Colin Woodard, “Up in Arms,” Tufts, Fall, 2013, http://www.tufts.edu/alumni/magazine/fall2013/fe
    , which is presently off line, but that pointed me to the book by Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (New York: Penguin, 2011) whereupon a similar map, but not in color, appears on the cover.
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Colin Kaepernick is right,” Not Housebroken, July 3, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/03/colin-kaepernick-is-right/
  6. [6]Adam Serwer, “The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying,” Atlantic, May 9, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/05/americas-racial-contract-showing/611389/; David Benfell, “Yet again, a season for cynicism,” Not Housebroken, May 10, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/10/yet-again-a-season-for-cynicism/; Aaron Blake, “The timeline of Trump’s coronavirus response is increasingly damning,” Washington Post, April 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/07/timeline-trumps-coronavirus-response-is-increasingly-damning/; John Cassidy, “The Most Alarming Thing About the Worst Jobs Report in History,” New Yorker, May 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-most-alarming-thing-about-the-worst-jobs-report-in-history; Jonathan Chait, “Trump Wants to Starve the States Into Opening Before It’s Safe,” New York, April 20, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/trump-coronavirus-open-state-governors-protests.html; Zak Cheney-Rice, “Even Naked, America Cannot See Itself,” New York, April 27, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/coronavirus-inequality-america.html; Amy Goldstein, “First, the coronavirus pandemic took their jobs. Then, it wiped out their health insurance,” Washington Post, April 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/first-the-coronavirus-pandemic-took-their-jobs-then-it-wiped-out-their-health-insurance/2020/04/18/1c2cb5bc-7d7c-11ea-8013-1b6da0e4a2b7_story.html; William Gumede, “The impact of coronavirus could compare to the Great Depression,” Al Jazeera, May 3, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/impact-coronavirus-compare-great-depression-200420070542882.html; John F. Harris, “Admit It: You Are Willing to Let People Die to End the Shutdown,” Politico, April 30, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/04/30/coronavirus-shutdown-altitude-ethics-223569; Zoë Hu, “A New Age of Destructive Austerity After the Coronavirus,” New Republic, April 23, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157417/new-age-destructive-austerity-coronavirus; Sarah Jones, “Dear Rich People: Please Stop Hoarding Things,” New York, March 30, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/things-are-bad-and-rich-people-arent-helping.html; Laura Kalmes, “It’s our fault young people refuse to stay home,” Ozy, March 26, 2020, https://www.ozy.com/news-and-politics/its-our-fault-young-people-refuse-to-stay-home/293136/; Justin Lahart, “Great Depression Unemployment Levels Are on Tap,” Wall Street Journal, April 16, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/great-depression-unemployment-levels-are-on-tap-11587053071; Justin Lahart, “Why the Economy Was Even Worse than the GDP Report,” Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-the-economy-was-even-worse-than-the-gdp-report-11588176851; Heather Long, “U.S. now has 22 million unemployed as economy sinks toward Depression-like scenario,” Washington Post, April 16, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/16/unemployment-claims-coronavirus/; Heather Long, “U.S. economy shrank 4.8 percent in first quarter, biggest decline since the Great Recession,” April 29, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/29/gdp-coronavirus/; Heather Long, “Jobless rate soared to 14.7% in April as U.S. shed 20.5 million jobs amid coronavirus pandemic,” Washington Post, May 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/08/april-2020-jobs-report/; Joe Lowndes, “The Morbid Ideology Behind the Drive to Reopen America,” New Republic, April 30, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america; Nesrine Malik, “It’s no accident Britain and America are the world’s biggest coronavirus losers,” Guardian, May 10, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/10/anglo-american-coronavirus-crisis; Eric Morath, Harriet Torry, and Gwynn Guilford, “A Second Round of Coronavirus Layoffs Has Begun. Few Are Safe,” Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-second-round-of-coronavirus-layoffs-has-begun-no-one-is-safe-11586872387; Joe Pinsker, “The Four Possible Timelines for Life Returning to Normal,” Atlantic, March 30, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/03/coronavirus-social-distancing-over-back-to-normal/608752/; David Roth, “The Enduring Delusion of a Chastened Trump,” New Republic, April 3, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157154/enduring-delusion-chastened-trump; Eugene Scott, “4 reasons coronavirus is hitting black communities so hard,” Washington Post, April 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/10/4-reasons-coronavirus-is-hitting-black-communities-so-hard/; Andy Sullivan and Brad Brooks, “‘The government is failing us’: Laid-off Americans struggle in coronavirus crisis,” Reuters, May 7, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-05-07/coronavirus-weekly-jobless-unemployment-numbers; David Wallace-Wells, “We Are Probably Only One-Tenth of the Way Through This Pandemic,” New York, April 17, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/we-are-probably-only-a-tenth-of-the-way-through-the-pandemic.html; William Wan, Carolyn Y. Johnson, and Joel Achenbach, “States rushing to reopen are likely making a deadly error, coronavirus models and experts warn,” Washington Post, April 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/04/22/reopening-america-states-coronavirus/; Ben White, “Trump faces the risk of a coronavirus cliff,” Politico, April 28, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/28/trump-reopening-coronavirus-213535; Dawson White and Chacour Koop, “Confirmed coronavirus cases top 1 million in US. ‘We have to have a breakthrough,’” Sacramento Bee, April 28, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/site-services/newsletters/breaking-news-alerts/article242302716.html; Matt Zapotosky et al., “Trump administration pushing to reopen much of the U.S. next month,” Washington Post, April 9, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/trump-reopen-us-economy/2020/04/09/10d42b4a-7a7b-11ea-9bee-c5bf9d2e3288_story.html

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