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In the fourth installment of Escape From New York, in which I pick new cities and homes for New Yorkers priced out of the real estate market, we meet Randi. In some ways, she's got a great situation: She lives in one of the last extant middle-class communities in Manhattan, a limited-equity co-op (cheap to buy, but you don't make much money when you sell it), with an amazing group of neighbors and a community garden.
But, like many of us, Randi's bummed out by the city's increasing density and the growing influence of enormous wealth (Randi cites "the persistent closing of neighborhood establishments"). The endless skyscraper construction means the loss of her river view.
She wants to live in a left wing-leaning place with a very low cost of living, a lake, and a progressive Jewish community. Sunshine would be great, and walkability and public transit are must-haves. Also, she says, the city should "not be in a state of hyper-gentrification," but neither should she be the "leading-edge gentrifier." One last thing: It has to be a nonstop flight away from both New York City and Philadelphia.
So let's go to Cleveland.
The Rust Belt city is getting shinier all the time. It's got a strong environmental movement (the plan is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% come 2050). Last year the mayor announced a plan to invest $100 million in the struggling neighborhoods. It has many walkable neighborhoods, and all the lake you could hope for. But sorry about the sunshine situation.
And budget living? You can pick up a big ol' house for $30,000 -- though, OK, it's probably priced at rock bottom for a reason. Here are some options for a little more that still look like fire-sale prices compared with New York City real estate.
P.S. Want to be profiled? Drop me a line.
It's beautiful! It's big (by New York standards)! It's got a bar in the basement! And (be still my heart) it's a bungalow. I hope you share my love of bungalows. Five bedrooms, two bathrooms, a lovely kitchen, close-ish to the lake in a nice neighborhood just outside the city. Hurry, before I buy it.
Here is a surefire way to live cheaply: Buy a three-family house for less than $170,000. This one needs a bit of updating -- say goodbye to the carpet, give the kitchen a little love -- but it's got central air, a two-car garage, and a workshop in the basement. It's also on "one of Lakewood's sought after streets." Plus, you can "walk to park, shopping, restaurants and public transportation."
Um, yeah, it's almost hard to list this home's attributes -- at least for me, if I'm not going to cry with jealousy. Beautiful period details, from oak pocket doors to oak mantels. And the garden, well, it's gonna make you happy. Not quite sure how you'll feel about this part of the description: "Priced out of other gentrifying areas to the east? Discover this walkable, convenient & affordable alternative."
Look at what you can get for $70,000: a three-bedroom, 1.5-bath home measuring 2,773 square feet, near the lake, with original details, built-ins, and, heck, a Murphy bed, because all your New York friends are coming to visit.