Friday, October 28, 2011

Movin' On Up in Miami to the Upper East Side(on the other side of the housing bubble)

The '70s show with the theme song Movin' On Up was about a family moving up the social ladder to a "condo in the sky".   Interestingly, the current housing crisis is allowing much of the same thing, except in an opposite way. Not in the way you might think, that the nouveau pauvres are moving into poor areas. Actually it's that condos are so cheap that poorer residents are filling up buildings that were intended for the well-to-do. That is exactly what is happening with my condo.

Don't get me wrong, I am a snob. I have upper-middle class standards and desires. I can be shallow. I live in a property that was intended for people exactly like me....pretentious jerks. Really folks, we can say what we want about race, class, status....but where you live is where the rubber meets the road. Where you live says more about you than the car you drive, the clothes you wear or even the friends you hang out with. Your home is the ultimate expression of "you". 

So is my "ultimate statetment of status" the condo now worth around $80K or the mortgage upwards of $300K?  Worse yet is the sense of despair of my well-to-do neighbors who paid as much or more than we did for our homes. We sit in middle-class horror as the units with single bedrooms fill up with young families with three or more kids. Where do they all sleep?  The parking lot show the clear signs of the have's and have nots as expensive BMWs and Mercedes park next to 15 year old Altimas and tricked out Dodge Challengers. This is not about race either, the yuppies are just as diverse as their poorer neighbors.

But the class divide is interesting. Initially some people move in and don't share the same values of order, respect, quiet, cleanliness as the existing neighbors.  However, making a statement that "this is a classy place, and you are welcome here if you live by our rules" really makes people wake up and try to fit in. I see those families that moved in start to fit in, better cars, clothes and manners. I truly believe this is a silver lining of the housing crisis, you never really can choose your neighbors, no matter how much you try. Our own middle-class entitlement of a nice place to live has become possible to those who are lucky enough to have work and have a dream. I know they don't have as much as I do, but as long as they try to be a good neighbor, you are welcome here. Besides, us snobby jerks can't leave without ruining our credit anyway.