Can you live long enough to pay off your debt? Most students can, despite the agony of those graduates who can’t. But what about paying off other essentials? Cars, health, homes? Should you worry that “mortgage” means “death pledge”?
Say at age 30 you finally meet The One and eagerly intend to settle down, buy a home, and start a family in a city, with all that energy yet livable, and on the coast—San Francisco.
An average house in the Bay Area—with Silicon Valley, Free Speech Berkeley, and the Wine Country at your doorstep—now exceeds $1 million, three times the cost of a transplanted pancreas (could be useful), nine times the price for an environment-friendly Tesla Roadster (could be fun).
Without question, your partner works. You might also find jobs for your pets. Fido could walk the better off dog being walked by an otherwise unemployed college grad.
Having everyone in the household work is convenient since data for income at the US Census Bureau is only for households. As a couple with college degrees, you and your better half are already at the median income (half of the others are above, half below), $80,000 for a San Francisco household. You get to use a quarter of that—$20,000—to pay off the debt.
The debt. Paying off a mortgage at typical terms means at the end of 30 years you’d have paid three times the original price tag. Paid off, the Tesla would bump up to the cost of the pancreas, the transplant to the bungalow, and that cottage to $3 million, the price of a palace, which it is decidedly not.
It’d take you 150 years to pay the home off. You’d be 180, feasible only if medical progress starts to match microchip progress and Moore’s Law begins to apply to anti-aging. Otherwise, you’ll have to devote half your income to your mortgage, to get it down to 75 years, so you’d only be 105 when you’re free and clear. Alternatively, you could apply three quarters of your income to making your lender fat and happy and get it down to 50 years so you’d be a spry 80.
Obviously, people don’t do that. What do they do? They get parents — dead or alive (a trust fund or a generous provider) to help. Or their salary swells. Or they pass on the hot potato to the next big dreamer. They sell out and move on, taking their equity with them. (Hello, Portland, hello, Seattle.) They break up the old neighborhood but in big cities there’s not much in the way of neighborhoods anyway.
There is a better way to afford living in San Francisco as a young adult. That million dollar bungalow? That’s not a million dollar cottage. It’s probably more like a $200,000 bungalow on a $800,000 parcel of land. It’s still true: location, location, location.
There is a better way to afford living in San Francisco as a young adult.
That million dollar bungalow? That’s not a million dollar cottage. It’s probably more like a $200,000 bungalow on a $800,000 parcel of land. It’s still true: location, location, location.
That gone-ballistic value of the site? It’s nothing to be afraid of. Why? It’s yours. Partly. It’s common wealth. The cost of the Roadster isn’t, the price of the pancreas isn’t, but the value of a lot is not generated by any owner owning. Rather, it’s the product of the presence of society. And of nature. It’s due to the climate. To the harbor. To the majestic views. Earlier to the gold, now to the oil fields not far away and other minerals. And to society. The convenient bridges. The universities. The techno-progress.
And mainly to population density. Anywhere, as people move in, land values move up. What lone owner can claim responsibility for that?
People who want to live in San Francisco make a huge mistake complaining about the cost. San Francisco residents need to recover it and share it by paying all San Francisco residents a dividend from surplus public revenue.
People who want to live in San Francisco make a huge mistake complaining about the cost. That cost is a benefit. It’s society’s surplus. San Francisco residents need to recover it and share it, sort of like what Singapore does, by paying all San Francisco residents a dividend from surplus public revenue. Residents would pay in land dues according to the value of their location and get back shares equal to those of their many, many neighbors. Dues in, dividends out.
Do that—share the worth of Earth in the Bay Area among Bay Area residents—and paying off the mortgage within 30 years actually becomes easy, like buying a Tesla Roadster. The cost of housing, even on prime locations, would no longer be a way to enslave residents. You could live to be ancient and most of that time you’d be debt-free—especially if you keep your original body parts.
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JEFFERY J. SMITH published The Geonomist, which won a California GreenLight Award, has appeared in both the popular press (e.g.,TruthOut) and academic journals (e.g., USC's “Planning and Markets”), been interviewed on radio and TV, lobbied officials, testified before the Russian Duma, conducted research (e.g., for Portland's mass transit agency), and recruited activists and academics to Progress.org. A member of the International Society for Ecological Economics and of Mensa, he lives in Mexico. Jeffery formerly was Chief Editor at Progress.org.