Can I Afford Los Angeles?

If you’ve been around me for the last few months, you’ve heard that I am not planning on staying in New York beyond May. Nothing is imminent at this time: I’m not planning on leaving, but I am seriously considering moving out of here to start a new different life .

Mom and Dad and LA City Hall

One of the places that makes a lot of sense for me to move is Los Angeles for a few compelling reasons:

  • I could be near my family. My entire family is in Southern California within 60 miles of downtown LA. It would be nice to be close to my brother, watch my nephew grow up, and be around my mom and dad while they’re still in good health.
  • I could ride my bike year-round. It was a pleasant treat to ride almost 200 miles over the holidays, and with year-round riding, I would someday be able to ride a double century or something crazy like that.
  • I could find work in my field. Even if I don’t teach, either part-time or full-time, I could still work in IT and media like I do at NYU-TV. And talking with a stranger at a bar in West Hollywood during my most recent trip, I learned that there a exciting prospects for me there.
  • I could still have a kind of big-city life. I know very well that LA and New York are very different, and I would be a fool to think that I can transplant my life here out there. Instead, I would be open to finding and making great things out there. I still get excited every time I visit and feel a little frustrated that I didn’t do as much as I would have liked before I have to head “back east.”

Unfortunately, as I learned while listening to KPCC’s The Breakdown, I probably could not afford to live there:

You need to earn at least $33 an hour — $68,640 a year — to be able to afford the average apartment in Los Angeles County, according to Matt Schwartz, president and chief executive of the California Housing Partnership, which advocates for affordable housing.

The news is not all that bad. First, this report quotes average not median prices. I might not be affected since I’m used to being a below-average renter. Second, I would likely find a job that pays above this $68,000 figure, so I wouldn’t be in too bad of shape. The point of this report is to simply show how impossible it would be to get by with the proposed $13.25 minimum wage for the city of Los Angeles.

However, my prospects turn gloomier should I want to buy a home. I would need to earn significantly more to afford the median-priced home.

In order to afford to purchase the median-priced home in Los Angeles, you’d need to earn $96,513 a year, according to HSH.com, a mortgage information website.

The most surprising finding from this report was that Los Angeles was the least affordable city in the United States—something that should surprise people in San Francisco, New York, or Washington, DC. It’s not that housing is the most expensive in the nation’s second largest city, it’s just that wages are lower, making it harder for the average worker to afford the average apartment.

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