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Is there a better place out there to live for me?
January 9, 2006 9:06 AM   Subscribe

I have been thinking about the best places to live for a gay woman, in a committed relationship whose partner has a 4-year old son.

I am currently living in North Florida after having lived in South Florida for 3 years. My parents live in N. FL and I own a home. I am in my late 20s, work as an attorney but my job is a bore (claims) and not what I want to be doing for a long time (I have only been here for 7 months and I can't even imagine myself sticking it out for more than a year). I have been an attorney for 4 years. I am in a committed relationship with a woman (in her early 30s) who is a hairdresser and has a 4 year old son. I do not miss Miami and would like to live there again. I have a lot of family in California as I was born and raised in L.A. N. Florida does not seem like the place for someone in my situation. It is clearly in the "Bible belt" and I look ahead to the future and fear the backlash my partner's son will get because he has "two mommies." Also, I would like to live in a more diverse community where there are people of all backgrounds and orientations. I would love to live in CA again but I would have to take the Bar exam there (not really a hindrance but surely an annoyance) and I know the cost of living is sky-high compared to FL. I would like anyone's insight as to places they feel someone like me would feel "more at home" or at least where I could feel that I am not the only one in this situation. I am open to all of the United States. I hope I have posted enough information for everyone to offer their insight.
posted by workinprogress to Travel & Transportation (71 answers total)
 
Toronto, Canada. Most diverse city in the world. Very gay-friendly.

Sure, emigrating is a hassle. But what's the hassle factor of living in a country that hates you for the next 50 years?
posted by jellicle at 9:15 AM on January 9, 2006


Well, you state that you're open to all of the US, have you thought about living internationally for a while? There may be demand abroad for American attorneys. Just a thought.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:16 AM on January 9, 2006


If you can handle the cost, Boston has a thriving, close-knit legal market and you can marry your partner to boot.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 9:21 AM on January 9, 2006


There is little to no demand for American attorneys abroad, unless perhaps you are attached to a Biglaw firm with international reach.

Lakewood, Ohio (west side of Cleveland) is pretty gay-friendly and has a diverse population, but it is in Ohio which is not gay-friendly in general.
posted by Falconetti at 9:23 AM on January 9, 2006


Seattle
posted by frogan at 9:30 AM on January 9, 2006


Northampton, Massachusetts
posted by tristeza at 9:35 AM on January 9, 2006


Greenwich Village, in New York City. I moved here to go to NYU from St. Augustine, so I know what you mean about the less than stellar acceptance of diversity in N Florida. I see more gay parents in 10 minutes on a summer's day in Tompkins Square Park than I ever did in the 17 years I lived in St. Augustine.
posted by saladin at 9:36 AM on January 9, 2006


Madison, Wisconsin. Extremely liberal enclave. In the US, at least, I've only found San Francisco to be more open regarding homosexuality.

Being from Florida and California, however, you'll have a certain climate acclimation period.
posted by thanotopsis at 9:38 AM on January 9, 2006


Provincetown, Massachusetts.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:41 AM on January 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


Hopefully, my partner and I will soon raise a child in the conservative suburbs of beautiful Houston Tx. We live here, our families live here, and the support we give and receive with them is a lot more important than any stupidity we may get. The worst we've seen so far is that our political signs were destroyed.

My advice - get a job you love, be around people you love (and who love you), choose a great school known for its diversity for the kiddo, and create a community for yourself, in the real world and online. There are lots of websites/bulletin boards for lesbian moms or lesbians trying to conceive, and when I want a little rainbow in my day I go visit them.
posted by pomegranate at 9:41 AM on January 9, 2006


While most red states have gay-friendly enclaves, there is much to be said for moving to a state whose statutes and legislature aren't openly hostile to you. A liberal suburb of Cleveland is great for peace of mind and a tolerant atmosphere, but can't help you when benefits are actively being eroded by elected officials.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 9:46 AM on January 9, 2006


Portland Oregon is Queer Heaven.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:46 AM on January 9, 2006


I think the suggestions about Massachusetts are excellent. But I very much appreciate what pomegranate says, too. The reason that conservative communities remain in the Stone Age is that people who are liberal -- or really, in any way different -- up and leave for more progressive locales. That is wonderful for those people, no question.

But, as a native Texan, I often feel that there's something of a 'brain drain' effect in the red states. I have a few close friends who are originally from the south, now living in the north, so they can enjoy a more progressive, anti-racist, anti-sexist environment. But sometimes I wonder: what if we'd all just stayed put, and, by our very presence, assisted the culture in changing?
posted by Miko at 9:48 AM on January 9, 2006


I have heard it said that in Florida the further north you go the further south you get. Come home to Los Angeles.
posted by snowjoe at 9:56 AM on January 9, 2006


Is there any place in the US more gay-friendly than Massachusetts? Come on.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:57 AM on January 9, 2006


Putney, Vermont.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:58 AM on January 9, 2006


I guess I should mention the obvious: San Francisco. Although the cost of living is high here, I happen to live in Bernal heights, which has been described as a lesbian enclave.
posted by vacapinta at 9:59 AM on January 9, 2006


Um, the Castro here in lovely SF? I mean, really, it's overdone, but SF really is a fun place to live with the added benefit of being all ho-mo-sex-u-al all the time. I speak not from experience, though, so maybe SF ain't so cool in 2006.
posted by kcm at 10:00 AM on January 9, 2006


vacapinta: "I guess I should mention the obvious: San Francisco. Although the cost of living is high here, I happen to live in Bernal heights, which has been described as a lesbian enclave."

  "Bernal Heights now has a cozy lesbian small-town feel."

that's awesome. BH is great being a bit south and near both 280/101, plus it's one of the prettier areas of the city IMO. I'll stop speaking for the lesbians since I had no idea that was such a mecca. :p
posted by kcm at 10:04 AM on January 9, 2006


I second Northampton, MA and the surrounding towns. It's a very gay friendly area.
posted by plinth at 10:28 AM on January 9, 2006


If I were in your position, I would want to live in a state that protects legal rights for gay parents and stepparents-- second parent adoption, visitation rights, etc. Florida is one of the worst states for that -- I know of one lesbian couple with a child who won't even visit with their daughter to go to Disneyworld for that reason.
posted by footnote at 10:29 AM on January 9, 2006


Having lived in both San Francisco and Northampton, MA I can say that either place would fulfull the "not-the-only-one-in this situation" criteria. As an attorney, however, I have to say that breaking into the legal job market in SF can be tough- each year local law schools graduate more lawyers than there are jobs, so competition can be fierce. I have no idea what the law job market situation is like in Northampton.

If weather is at all an issue, however, it's California hands down.
posted by ambrosia at 10:30 AM on January 9, 2006


Ann Arbor, Michigan. Growing legal community there, close enough to work in Detroit if you desire true big law, bar exam isn't as bad as it could be. Great schools, definitly gay-friendly, all the good things associated with being a college town.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:30 AM on January 9, 2006


Also, you don't say what kind of law you do want to practice, but there's lots of opportunity there for organizational-type practice (i.e. being a "do gooder lawyer"), although it does suffer from having a law school full of liberals waiting to fill them. As an added bonus, though, good hairdressers are definitly in high demand!
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:32 AM on January 9, 2006


Bernal Heights is very lesbian friendly - but if the Bay Area appeals to you - I'd strongly suggest Berkeley. It's way more lesbian-centric than San francisco. Your kid would have a huge group of peers who also had "two moms", the weather would be a bit warmer than SF if climate is a concern, the public schools are a bit better than SF and I'm not sure there is a more liberal city west of the Mississippi.
posted by Wolfie at 10:36 AM on January 9, 2006


Another vote for Seattle.
posted by deborah at 10:39 AM on January 9, 2006


Almost all of the New York metro area is gay-friendly and you needn't live in Manhattan and pay inflated prices for housing either. I'd "maybe" stay away from Staten Island, and some of the bluer collar burbs in NJ or LI, but you never know. Teaneck NJ is one of the most diverse and gay-friendly suburbs around, Both AL Sharpton and my gay Rabbi cousin live there. Good public schools there too. Queens, although aesthetically not Paris by a long shot, is the most ethnically diverse place in the planet and has a hispanic Gay Pride parade in Jackson Heights. Parts of Richmond Hill and Jackson Heights particlarlu have many gay or hip families.

Plus given your profession, you'd probably have an easy time getting work in the New York area.

Don't forget about Philadelphia which is much better than its reputation. Lots of Philadelphia lawyers, large gay class, museums, universities and New York intellectual refugees from high Manhattan prices. A most underrated city.
posted by xetere at 10:42 AM on January 9, 2006


The only problem with Ann Arbor is similar to that mentioned above - it's really the defining city for SE MI being a good place to live. Outside of AA there's a lot of dissimilar area ranging from working class automotive industry to uh, uber auto executives. Not bad, but it's kind of like Austin in that you're kind of on your own once you leave AA. However, there's Zingerman's, so it's all OK in the end.

I grew up in SE MI and did my undergrad in AA.
posted by kcm at 10:44 AM on January 9, 2006


I'll put in a word for my town, Philadelphia. Word on the street is that we're cool now. (Also, MUCH cheaper than Boston, NYC, or San Fran.)

I agree that you should look for someplace with a neighborhood and job that you love, though. (And if you'd like to remain in the South, there are a lot more liberal and diverse necks-of-the-woods than N. Florida.)
posted by desuetude at 10:50 AM on January 9, 2006


Asheville, NC. It's very open, very friendly, there are lots of resources and lots and lots of women in your situation. Bonus: it's a day's drive to North Florida, so your relatives aren't too far away. Caveats: the cost of living is currently skyrocketing and jobs are insanely difficult to find.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:51 AM on January 9, 2006


As it hasn't been listed yet (and I'm biased) I'll suggest my hometown of Chicago. While I don't think it has the reputation of places like SF and Portland, it's a pretty tolerant place. There are thriving queer neighborhoods, and plenty of schools that wouldn't bat an eye at two women raising a child.

I'm pretty sure that the same could be said of any major metropolitan area in the Midwest, really.
posted by aladfar at 10:55 AM on January 9, 2006


Asheville, NC. I lesbian friend of mine moved there and says it isn't asheville, its 'sheville'
posted by markovitch at 11:08 AM on January 9, 2006


If you're looking to stay in FL, I found Tampa to be the best option. As you know, going further north is not a good option (serious bible belt), and I also didn't like Miami much. Tampa has a decent gay population and some of the better tolerance levels in FL outside of Miami (IMO).

However, as another poster said, you really have just about no legal rights in FL and aren't likely to get any any time soon. If that's a concern for you, look into going to one of the states that does offer legal partnership rights (MA, VT, CT and CA [to a certain extent]) OR second parent adoption (8 states total, I believe, you'd have to look it up). I think it's critically important to have legal rights, especially when children are in the picture. The downside is that these states are also some of the most expensive states to live in, unfortunately.

Since no one has mentioned it yet, Bethesda/Silver Springs, MD, is another lesbian mecca with more gay families strolling around than anywhere else I've seen. Huge support network and good chances of legal rights in the near future.

My wife and I live in CT and got a civil union as soon as they became legal. Even though that will make her the legal parent to the twins I'm currently carrying, we have no guarantee that other states will recognize that claim, so we are eliminating all doubt by also doing the second parent adoption. If something happens to me while we're vacationing in another state, I do not want there to be any question about my wife's legal status as our kids' mommy.
posted by widdershins at 11:15 AM on January 9, 2006


There is little to no demand for American attorneys abroad,

Falconetti, are you sure about that? I live in Paris and seem to run into an inordinate number of lawyers from the states working for French companies that have a lot of dealings with Americans.

But anyway, the poster asked about places in the U.S., and I'm going to have to go for Decatur, Georgia. This is a very close suburb to Atlanta so you have access to lots of jobs. You'd also be staying in easy reach of your family in North FL. The best thing is, Decatur is very gay and lesbian-friendly. One of the Indigo girls is part-owner of a restaurant there, for example, and there are a lot of lesbian bars around where you can hear live music. My dad is gay, and he and his partner live there surrounded by a lot of their friends who are also gay. There's even a gay church in his neighborhood. I'd say your family would fit well with that community.
posted by hazyjane at 11:19 AM on January 9, 2006


I'd guess Vancouver, BC, would be a great place for gay parents.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:23 AM on January 9, 2006


I second Putney, Vermont; I'm no longer a resident, but my gay friends have specifically moved there due to VT's gay-couples-with-kids friendly policies. The community is gay-friendly, and the straight folk in the area are very open and welcoming (I was one of them when I lived there). It's a quick drive to other nifty places like Northampton, MA (also mentioned as a good place) and Boston...

On a side note avoid New Hampshire as they apparently have laws enabling your parents or your partner's parents to legally kidnap your child if they disapprove (though this is hearsay...).
posted by sablazo at 11:25 AM on January 9, 2006


If something happens to me while we're vacationing in another state, I do not want there to be any question about my wife's legal status as our kids' mommy.
posted by widdershins at 11:15 AM PST on January 9 [!] ago


Unfortunately, it might not be true that the second parent adoption holds up in another state. Here's some news about it from Oklahoma.
posted by footnote at 11:28 AM on January 9, 2006


Portland OR. seems to have a very well organized and active lesbian community. I have a relative who moved there to raise a son with her lesbian partner, and they've been going strong for 5 years or more now.
posted by Zendogg at 11:28 AM on January 9, 2006


I'll give a second vote for Toronto. I'm unsure about the demand for US lawyers here, but it would be better here than anywhere else in Canada (well, maybe Calgary).

There's a lesbian couple that have 3 kids at my kids' school and yeah, there's a pretty big gay population in town in general.
posted by GuyZero at 11:38 AM on January 9, 2006


Also, if you don't want to become a full-blown immigrant to Canada, lawers can get the ever-popular TN visa, which allows you to work here for a year. It's renewable any number of times and doesn't require any sponsorship - you just show up at the border, show proof of qualifications, pay $50 (or something) and you're in.
posted by GuyZero at 11:42 AM on January 9, 2006


If you want to apply that law knowledge to something a little more civic-minded there's no shortage of trade or rights organizations here in DC that would probably like to have you. The pay will stink, quite likely, but maybe you'll find Doing Good more enjoyable. And for gay-friendly you can be in Dupont Circle if you want to be in the city or Del Ray if you want the suburbs.
posted by phearlez at 11:44 AM on January 9, 2006


Other issues aside, you should investigate the rights of non-biological same-sex parents in each of your potential destinations. It may be hard to think about breaking up when you are in the process of moving in with your loved-ones. But in some parts of the USA, if you do break up you could lose all rights of contact with your partner's daughter. That daughter is four now. In another five years, you'll think of her as your daughter, too. But the courts might not, depending on where you live.

If I was moving, that would be the thing I'd look at first.
posted by alms at 12:18 PM on January 9, 2006


Although San Francisco seems the obvious because of the stereotype, and I absolutely love it here, I'd be cautious about a move out to SF because of the four year old.

The schools are not great. There aren't a lot of people in the city with kids (compared to almost every other city). And although there are things for kids to do here, it certainly isn't the most kid-friendly place I've been to.

High taxes, high housing costs and high competition for jobs make it a tough place to up and move to.

Of course, there's outlying areas like the East Bay which are cheaper, have more kids, but have less of the gay enclave cache.
posted by Gucky at 1:37 PM on January 9, 2006


I secord or third Asheville. The gay community here is strong, and the arts/cultural scene is unrivaled in the southeast. Employment is easie here if you come with a skill- jacks-of-all-trades aren't as lucky. Feel free to email w/ questions.
posted by moonbird at 1:37 PM on January 9, 2006


There is a fairly vibrant and growing adult (as opposed to college-age) gay population in Pittsburgh, with several open and affirming churches, if that interest you at all, and communities where it is not at all dangerous or even controversial to fly a rainbow flag above the door to your home. Our former city solicitor, who is in the running to become a family court judge, is parenting a child with her female partner.

Pittsburgh has a low cost of living, up and coming tech industry, great outdoor sports, great eating, great medical care, good schools (even moreso in some suburbs but city schools aren't bad at all, with good diversity), the lowest housing costs of any of the top 30 metro areas in the nation (a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath ranch with finished basement and garage = <$100k) and a vibrant legal community as well.

Pennsylvania has not yet gone the way of amending our constitution with regard to marriage and there is no known groundswell to do so (though there is a current one-man-one-woman legal definition) and our courts have given approval to second-parent adoptions for gay couples. As a very special bonus, if you move here before November, you can help oust Rick Santorum from the US Senate.
posted by Dreama at 1:53 PM on January 9, 2006


Portland is an absolutely wonderful place for gay acceptance; however, the school system in Oregon is not generally all that great. Two of my friends who are raising children moved from Portland across the river to Vancouver, WA to take advantage of the school system here. They work in Portland (and pay Oregon state income tax sadly) but reap the benefits of Washington's school system.
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies at 2:05 PM on January 9, 2006


1. Northampton, MA
2. Jamaica Plain, MA
3. New York City
4. San Francisco
5. Canada
6. Europe
posted by spaghetti at 2:19 PM on January 9, 2006


If you're wanting to stay in Florida but head southerly a bit, try St. Petersburg instead of Tampa. Tampa's gotten legislatively homophobic lately - they nuked a number of protections and recognitions for gay people.

St. Pete, however, is still as queer as it can be. (Which isn't very, compared to San Francisco, but it's improving.) The housing is cheaper, too, and you're closer to the Gulf instead of the stinky old bay.
posted by cmyk at 2:29 PM on January 9, 2006


Decatur, GA (right by Atlanta). Atlanta has a very large gay community and Decatur is the epicenter of the lesbians. (Midtown Atlanta is the epicenter for gay men.)
posted by FergieBelle at 2:47 PM on January 9, 2006


Someone up thread mentioned Provincetown, but I'll add that pretty much all of Cape Cod is very gay-friendly. If anything it's MORE expensive than SF, but it is a wonderful place to live, IMHO.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:03 PM on January 9, 2006


Albuquerque or Santa Fe, NM.

Albuquerque if cost of living is a real concern. Santa Fe if you can afford it. They are close enough to enjoy the fruits of both.

LOTS and lots of queers in both places. More lesbians in Santa Fe and plenty with kids.

New Mexico has been fighting a long hard battle on GLBT protections, but we're coming out ahead on this year after year.

A week after San Francisco started issuing their same-sex marriage licenses Sandoval County did as well. Those 62 marriages are still on the books, but no others have been allowed since the AG stopped them that afternoon.

You'd have to sit for the Bar Exam here too, but it may be worth it. The cost of living in Albuquerque is significantly lower than Boston, SF/LA or Chicago. The state is gorgeous and while there isn't the fully international feel of those cities, it is pretty diverse.

Drop me a line if you have specific questions.
posted by FlamingBore at 4:07 PM on January 9, 2006


Decatur, Georgia....kind of an extension of Atlanta and has a very high lesbian population, restaurants, schools, music clubs, many age groups....many different types of people...very open community, lots to do....and 15 minutes from atlanta....good luck
posted by jamie939 at 4:07 PM on January 9, 2006


I would vote for Asheville too, but you won't find the job opportunities there as in Atlanta....it's kind of a place where rich Charlestonians and Atlantans hide their freaky kids, gay kids, etc...Kind of a Trust Fund Baby town.
posted by jamie939 at 4:19 PM on January 9, 2006


Burlington, Vermont!

You can even buy our condo -- www.vermonthousecondo.com -- if you'd like! (sorry for the self-plug, but I really believe that she may like it!)
posted by k8t at 5:17 PM on January 9, 2006


Can't beat the schools in MA for your partner's son. I know of families in similar situations in Cambridge and in the South End in Boston -- I'd guess the chances are decent for other kids in school to have same-sex parents, especially as the law further attracts families to the state.
posted by VulcanMike at 5:42 PM on January 9, 2006


I've always heard that Key West was especially gay-friendly. Of course, then you have weather/safety concerns, and lack of employment oppotunities, and resort town prices...

Bernal Heights is lovely, and not only does it have a lot of lesbians but (maybe more importantly for you) a lot of lesbian families.
posted by cali at 8:44 PM on January 9, 2006


I think you'll find that West Coast tends to be much more tolerant then East Coast, which is probably alot more tolerant then anything in the midwest. Really, what you should be looking for a good state, and then find a good city in that state.

Being on the West Coast, I'd probably throw another vote for San Fran in first, but Cali isn't being very tolerant these days. I'm not sure about Washington, but Seattle and Tacoma are probably not bad.

Oregon, my home, is pretty much so-so in the state field. The population, however, is very understanding. I'm not sure if I'd go with LA. I'm friends with an older gay couple that specifically moved from LA up to here with the sole intention of buying a nice house on the beach and retiring in 10 years.

Portland would be good, with plenty of business. Best place in the state would be Eugene. Very alternative College Scene there, and fairly large. Just about any alternative lifestyle is hardly noticed there.
posted by Phynix at 1:35 AM on January 10, 2006


portland is good, but as stated above, marginal school system.

Northampton MA has got to be the best, but it's not a big city, and is a couple hours from Boston. Rad town though, good schools, and very gay friendly.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:36 AM on January 10, 2006


I'll put in a word for my town, Philadelphia. Word on the street is that we're cool now. (Also, MUCH cheaper than Boston, NYC, or San Fran.)

I've lived in Philadelphia for 14 years now and there are a number of problems I can think of off the top of my head:

• unless you are going to send your child to private or charter school, the public school system is in a very bad shape

• the cost of living is not very low; pretty much any place in the world is cheaper than Boston, NYC or San Fran, save for Tokyo

• wage, property, state and federal taxes will eat a much higher proportion of your earnings, which could be important if you plan to buy property or save to send your kids to college

• you'll be dealing with rising crime rates in some areas of the city, including the "gayborhood" in Center City

Philadelphia is not that great a place to live for middle-class families. Somewhat gay-friendly for singles or couples, yes, and perhaps wealthy familiies, but not for middle-class families.

My partner and I are looking into moving in a few years to Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, or perhaps northern California.

Having lived in Montreal for 5 years, I'd definitely recommend looking into Canada. The United States is becoming increasingly unfriendly by enacting laws to punish anyone who is not white, Christian and straight. There are plenty of opportunities in Canada for professionals who want to live their lives without fear.
posted by Rothko at 3:18 AM on January 10, 2006


Rothko, I basically agree with your objections to Philly, but I think that similar objections can be made for any American metropolitan area. (This is not to say that some folks, like yourself, aren't justified in prefering to trade their current city's issues for those of another.)

workinprogress, a question -- what do you like about your current area. Anything?
posted by desuetude at 9:40 AM on January 10, 2006


If New York City is still under consideration, I'd recommend living in Park Slope, Brooklyn. This is a very family-friendly, gay-friendly community. Prettier than Queens, less expensive than Greenwich Village, right next to wonderful 500 acre park (Prospect Park). Just tons of kids and every imaginable parent combo is represented.
posted by AuntLisa at 12:28 PM on January 10, 2006


Eugene, Oregon. Many lesbians, many good schools due to the university.
posted by A dead Quaker at 8:30 PM on January 10, 2006


Desuetude, what I do like about my current area is that it has excellent schools and it is a peaceful environment. "Peaceful" meaning that at times it can be boring. I also like that housing prices are rather low but then, so are wages. I'm 28 so I'd like to find a place that has decent schools but also has diversity with many different things to do within the community. I have always had my heart set on living in San Francisco but the thought of moving from FL to there scares me - job prospects, high cost of living, no friends or family, etc. It would be a HUGE step.
posted by workinprogress at 6:10 AM on January 11, 2006


Housing in Philly is actually much more affordable than in most major metropolitan areas, at least in the Northeast.
posted by Miko at 8:53 AM on January 11, 2006


Housing in Philly is actually much more affordable than in most major metropolitan areas, at least in the Northeast

I wish!
posted by Rothko at 1:51 AM on January 12, 2006


Well, I know it is. I used to live there and still know many who do. It's easily demonstrable.
posted by Miko at 6:52 AM on January 12, 2006


Check out the salary calculator and all its related cost-of-living toys. Compare Philly to a number of Northeastern cities (NY, Boston, Hartford, Portland, Burlington, Stamford, New Haven).

Basically, I just found that if I made $100K living where I live now (I don't), I could have the same standard of living in Philly on $85K.
posted by Miko at 6:57 AM on January 12, 2006


Didn't mean to start a Philly derail -- Miko, Rothko and I could probably go on forever. workinprogress, if you want to move to a city where the great Philly love/hate debate is a city-wide hobby, you'll be right at home here.

Big cities are always going to have the crime, school, expense problem. I love it where I live (South Philly) and would raise a family here in a heartbeat, but I've lived here for seven years and have settled into my neighborhood. Starting fresh with a kid is obviously a little more complicated and requires a steeper learning curve. It may be easier to move to either a medium-sized city or a smaller town that's very close to a big city. I can't argue with my friends who move to Collingswood, NJ when they have kids, even though that's not the choice that I would make.

What about initiating a nationwide job search? Interviews could give you a chance to do a little city-shopping, and a job that you really love might sway you to live someplace that you hadn't already considered.
posted by desuetude at 7:43 AM on January 12, 2006


Well, I know it is. I used to live there and still know many who do. It's easily demonstrable.

Most of the starter homes within the CC area begin at $200K-$250K and up. At the low end of this scale, these are "fixer-uppers". New properties with a 10-yr property tax abatement add another $25-50K to the initial price due to higher demand.

"Good" areas of West and South Philly go for $150-200K and up, and have little tax abatement. Expect to add on another $50K again if it is a new development. "Bad" (higher crime) areas start about $55-70K and go up to $150K.

I haven't looked into North Philly in awhile. I know that livable properties in Frankford, Fishtown and Northern Liberties are in high demand and start in the $200K area, for the most part, despite higher crime.

Having priced mortgages and property taxes, I would put an existing $250K house in this city out of the range of most middle-class families unless both parents are working +$50K/yr jobs to pay $1600-2000/month. Mortgage rates are going up.

Taxation aside, car insurance is incredibly expensive. Car insurance companies reneged on their promise to lower rates after limited tort was introduced. To give a rough idea, the cost of insuring a 50cc scooter in the city is about the same as insuring a 5-dr car in the 'burbs ($600-750/6 months; $500 deduct., collision).

If you live in the city, Philadelphia will garnish your wages about 4.5%. If you live in the 'burbs but work in the city, you'll give them about 3.5%.

Sorry to derail. I love Philadelphia dearly in terms of what it offers culturally, and have lived here a long time, but there are aspects of its cost of living that should be known to prospective residents.

(Comparisons of pretty much any NE city with NYC, Boston, Hartford, Stamford, New Haven, etc. will always favor that city, by the way. Those are areas with higher COLs to begin with. If your job can support your living there, more power to you.)
posted by Rothko at 8:26 AM on January 13, 2006


(For example, I can compare cost of living in Philadelphia versus, say, Seattle, and get to an even lower COL for the same standard of living from taxation rates alone.)
posted by Rothko at 8:28 AM on January 13, 2006


Sorry to derail as well. I like Philly a lot as well, and in fact, I'm recommending it. But it is very much a comparable city to New Haven or Hartford, and in those regions, fixer-upper starter homes in safer nieghborhoods are now $300K, $325. Housing in Philadelphia has been rising, but is still much more affordable than almost every other major metropolitan area in the Northeast.

It's true that car insurance is ridiculously high. But housing accounts for 25-45% of most people's budget, and Philadelphians enjoy a housing surplus that results in getting excellent deals on housing, even in gentrifying neighborhoods.

posted by Miko at 8:34 AM on January 13, 2006


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