Affordable, but cool places to live?
December 8, 2004 8:50 AM   Subscribe

Affordable, but cool places to live as a career/lifestyle choice: If your work/career/next life project is portable, could you find a place where a two-bedroom apartment is $300 a month? Houses for under $50 grand? Cultural opportunities a resonable drive away? Would you do it this way? Why or why not? [more inside]

I've had a few acquaintances recently talk about an interesting life strategy. It first came up discussing Brian Kershisnik, who's making a living as a painter. While his background includes some time in major metropolitan areas, he settled in Kanosh Utah. Fixed costs of living are pretty low, and yet it's not too far from civilization -- Southern Utah University (which has a decent arts program) and St. George are within an hour's drive, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas within three hours (not to mention proximity to fine national parks). Artists rarely start making tons of cash, so the low fixed cost of living seems like a much smarter idea than starving in an NYC loft, especially if you also want to have a family.

Another acquaintance has a friend who's decided Arkansas might be a good place to start a software company. I guess he can get a decent house for under $50k. An old girlfriend told me her rent in Waverly Iowa was $325/month for a two bedroom last year.

So my questions are these:

(1) What do you think of this strategy?

(2) If you were going to do this, where would you pick? Bonus points for combining (a) low-cost living and (b) reasonable proximity to a decent college/university or other cultural center...
posted by weston to Work & Money (45 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
"Cultural opportunities a resonable drive away?"

I think it would get very old that you have to drive an hour to civilization.
posted by smackfu at 8:58 AM on December 8, 2004

Just about any smaller city with a large state university would fit the bill. The students keep the rent low, but you run the risk of living by obnoxious students. I live in Columbia, Missouri, pop. ~80-90K. Rents and house prices aren't quite as low as the figures you state, but still pretty cheap. The University of Missouri keeps things fresh and interesting. There's a lot of local support for the arts and music. I don't think it's too bad for being in a small city in the middle of the Midwest.
posted by zsazsa at 9:10 AM on December 8, 2004

Lawrence, KS is similar. (That's where KU is.)
posted by gramcracker at 9:11 AM on December 8, 2004

I would kill to live like that. Big cities suck ass. And suburbs suck colon.
posted by keswick at 9:11 AM on December 8, 2004

Zsazsa's got the formula I'm using but maybe there are other different formulas out there as well? I would look into a town outside of a small city near a big university (if possible). I can't remember the drive time between Helena Montana and Missoula nor have I researched the housing market (and don't anyone ruin my fantasy), but I've always wanted to pack it up and move out there.

I spent some time in Olympia, Washington and can't believe how low the cost of living was. Oly itself if close enough to Portland, Oregon (about 3.5 hours) and not too far from Seattle. Point being: Olympia has a fantastic liberal college there, great respect for the arts, thriving music scene, etc. but some of the outlying areas are still relatively inexpensive (though prices are rising) and you are situated in relative proximity (though longish if it were a daily commute) to two respectable cities. Must like the rain and fungus. Still, being along the I-5 corridor it may be too pricey. It's all about the balance.
posted by safetyfork at 9:33 AM on December 8, 2004

It depends what you think of as "cultural opportunities".

I've been to St. George and Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, and although I love the natural beauty of the surroundings out there--not to mention the weird surrealism of Las Vegas--I wouldn't think of any of those locales as abounding in the kind of "cultural opportunities" I have a chance to partake of in Boston and (four hours by train) New York.

I spend a lot of time and money seeing professional theater, opera, and classical music with international stars and others of impeccable artistry. The folk and acoustic scene in Boston is outstanding, and when the jazz offerings feel a little thin on the ground, I can hit New York. I really appreciate easy access to museums with world-famous collections.

Most important to me, though, is being in an area that has vibrant immigrant communities with outstanding arts organizations (the Cambodian temple dancers of Lawrence, Massachusetts are incredible, and there is a growing African music scene in Boston that promises great things).

Then there are the lectures at Harvard, MIT, Tufts, BU, and other universities almost every night, etc., etc., etc., and our wonderful public libraries, which collect serious and scholarly books as well as mystery novels and "Plumbing for Idiots".

So, no. Not for me. But if by "cultural opportunities" one means "independent films, a decent bookstore, and a place to get cappucino that isn't Starbucks", then I can see how it might work for someone.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:37 AM on December 8, 2004

Lewiston, Maine is dirt cheap (but so freakin' depressing). It is a college town, but you'll be driving for your culture. Portland is a 40 minute drive, Boston is about 2.5 hours. Anywhere in Maine that's north of Portland fits the bill for cheap, and if you like drive, culture can be obtained with effort.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 9:41 AM on December 8, 2004

Response by poster: I think it would get very old that you have to drive an hour to civilization.

I haven't lived in many large metro areas, but I've lived in several places in Southern California, mostly in LA and Ventura county. A friend of mine went back to visit with me once, and observed: "everything takes an hour to get to." This rang pretty true to me: other than going to the grocery store, you're looking at about an hour of travel for an awful lot of activities. This also seemed to fit on my visits to New York, DC, Sydney, although I tended to stay a ways out from metro centers for the sake of affordable lodging, so that may just be me.
posted by weston at 9:41 AM on December 8, 2004

One of my best friends lives in a place sort of like you describe -- Jackson, TN. It's between Nashville and Memphis, and they love it out there. Paid under 100K for their house (new, nice) commute to Memphis is easy, and (apparently) the cost of living is literally half of what it was for them in Washington, D.C.

I can see it. But then again, I've got a foot in both worlds, as I grew up an hour from civilization, and driving that far therefore does not faze me. You also have to take into account your tolerance for red-neckery. My above-mentioned friends are liberals living in a sea of uberultraconservatism.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:54 AM on December 8, 2004

I pretty much live this lifestyle now, though it's not as cheap as you want. I can drive into Portland for fun, and my house mortgage is half the rent I used to pay in California.

I was fantasizing a few months ago about finding a country somewhere on earth that has 1) good broadband and where 2) a $1,000 USD per month is like being a millionaire, if only to try it out for a few years.

Friends pointed out that Thailand and India were about the only options that filled the bill, but I don't have the guts to try it.
posted by mathowie at 9:59 AM on December 8, 2004

Come settle in Buffalo, N.Y., where the gradual decline of a once-thriving city can make affordable artistic nests a reality! We gots weirdo arts collectives! We gots alternative press with a really bewildering website! We gots a huge public university that's nutty for the arts.

And yeah, we gots snow. But we also gots the antidote.
posted by sacre_bleu at 10:04 AM on December 8, 2004

safetyfork: Oly's only about 1.5 hours away from Portland. Vancouver, BC might be 3.5 hours away, though.

How long ago were you in Olympia? I love it here, personally, but it's not the cheapest place on earth. Your average house will probably set you back $180-$200K at least, and the $750 I pay for a 3 room duplex is a bit less than average, I think. Cheaper than Seattle by a loooooong shot, though. If you're brave, you could buy an entire city block in Aberdeen and live there, but you'd run the risk of shooting yourself because it's so depressing. Centralia's a little better (and next to I-5), and supposedly you can get nice houses pretty cheap there. Downside, though, is you have to live in Centralia. I think I'll stay here for the time being.

On preview: You're not hiding in Olympia are you, mathowie?
posted by Captain_Tenille at 10:08 AM on December 8, 2004

You can rent a decent apartment here in Casper, WY for $350 a month and we do have a local cinema club and not one Starbucks, but it's no picnic, either. The University of Wyoming is three hours away in Laramie, which is a horrible little hole stuck in the middle of I-80. Talk about depressing - there are no jobs, plenty of drugs, and it's four hours to Denver, CO.

I can't even remember how many times I have made trips to Denver just to watch a movie or to visit Borders. It's hell, I tell you! Hell!
posted by dual_action at 10:12 AM on December 8, 2004

sacre_bleu- You forgot to mention that the antidote is generally available within a quarter mile of your location, no matter where you are in Buffalo, because that is about the density of neighborhood bars. ;- )

I grew up there, but the economy thing makes it tough to stay. And the weather. And my wife's arthritis.
posted by Doohickie at 10:20 AM on December 8, 2004

Props to those that can do it, but I would probably go crazy with boredom. I need the stimulation of a big city- not just cultural opportunities, but seeing lots of anonymous people everywhere I go as well. Although cheap real estate is a personal weak spot, so who knows.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:23 AM on December 8, 2004 [1 favorite]

Captain_Tenille: my bad, it's been a while since I was in Olympia (four years at the college I mentioned, but that was about 8 yrs ago). It seemed like it took that long to drive down to Portland from Oly. I was probably just doing 50mph in the car that I had at the time. But I'm going to attribute that error to my underdeveloped math skills. I have family from Aberdeen so I know of which you speak, but places like it were kind of what I had in mind when I mentioned outside areas. Though if I could afford it I would buy a little closer to Oly itself and make it on the water, bay, inlet thing. I was also thinking of a few other places just outside of it but since I've already tripped over math and time, I'll refrain from giving out names of locations that I think are proximate but are in fact not.
posted by safetyfork at 10:38 AM on December 8, 2004

Lawerence, KS has probably the cheapest living I've ever seen. Cheap all around. You have a large student population whom are very liberal, if that's your thing. A lot of support for the arts and a great way to meet people intersted in your thing. Almost everyone is a grad student and knows someone who knows someone who can help you out with whatever project you have. In my experience, there's a ton of willing, financially able kids trying to get in on the Next Big Thing. This might be true of other large state schools, but Lawerence is the only one I really know.

Where I'm from, KCMO, there's a very definite racial divide (Troost Ave). Basically the whole area features 2-3 bedroom homes built in the early 20th century. One one side of the street you'll run into $250,000+ homes and on the other homes starting at literally $30,000. The funny thing is for the most part, the homes are designed in the same style and same size. The only difference is one neighborhood is black and the other white. The black neighborhood is more rundown (homes not being kept us as well) but you'll find at least one home on the block whose owner tries really hard to take care of it. It's no totally the sticks. The violence in the area is actually very low.

I'm not at all being racist when I say it's a black neighborhood. There's been a lot of studies on it [1] and I believe the area ranks as one of the most racially segregated areas. So use racism to your economic advantage!
posted by geoff. at 10:43 AM on December 8, 2004

This is my thing. My life seems to revolve around hunting down these sort of places...

Dolan Springs & Chloride AZ - Tucked nicely in the NW corner of AZ with Vegas to the north, Kingman to the south and the Grand Canyon on your doorstep. Live in a trailer on your own patch of ground in DS or buy a place in Ch.

Sri Lanka (add to the list Matt)
There is more culture in Sri Lanka (the size of Ireland) than NYC, LA & SF combined. A great combination of Thailand/India/Bali-styles and despite a civil war that ebbs & flows home to some of the most lovely, generous and kind people on the planet. Suffice to say that your pound/dollar/euro will go far...

Bali, Indonesia (ditto, Matt)
If you know Bali as the luxury destination of the rich, the essential backpacker stopoff or the Aussie Costa del Sol then you only know a fraction of the story. There's a cultural, historical & religious depth to the place that defies belief. A friend lives there most of the year and, having fixed up the place herself, pays $1500 per year in rent for a beautiful 2 storey building in it's own small grounds on the edge of a rice field a 15 minute (motorbike) drive from the Kuta-Legian-Seminyak funfest, or the capital Denpasar and around 30 mins from the cultural centre of Ubud.

She runs a small business employing around 6 local villagers & puts her kid thru the local Montessori school. Probably the only downside is the 80°F 100% humidity during the rainy season ;-)

There are still lots of places just inland of the south & west coast of Spain from Barçelona down to La Linia & beyond.

Normandy has been popular with the English for the past 20 years and more recently further down into France with cheaper property and a more relaxed lifestyle.

New Zealand
A personal favourite is the north coast of the South Island from Picton thru Nelson to Golden Bay. Maybe a little isolated for some but Wellington is a shortish boat ride from Picton and NZ has a cultural output that belies it's poulation size. The music scene there is incredible considering there are only 4 million people in the entire country. Fucking terrible drivers tho' ;-)

Now if only the prices were more reasonable on Key West...
posted by i_cola at 10:50 AM on December 8, 2004 [2 favorites]

safetyfork: No problem at all; it's definitely gotten more expensive over the past 8 years. The music scene's kind of sleeping right now, but it might be making a revival soon. Even though it's gotten more expensive here, though, it's still way cheaper than Seattle, which is a plus. If you're brave, you could always live in places like Littlerock, Tenino, Rochester, etc. which aren't too far from Olympia, but are definitely cheaper. Unfortunately, those places also suck a lot harder, so you'd have to be willing to deal with a lot of rednecks and yokels.

The big downside to living in Olympia is that state government is the primary employer, and most non-state jobs are service jobs serving state workers, so it doesn't really have a dynamic economy. We're also vulnerable to Republicanists, which is why I'm not thrilled that it looks like Dino Rossi will probably end up becoming governor. A Democratically controlled state legislature, combined with his razor thin margin he has right now, should prevent any horrible damage, but there probably won't be much in the way of new state jobs. Frankly, it amazes me that anyone in Thurston County votes Republican. If we don't have the state, we have nothing. I don't care if you like small government or want to incinerate the queers, it's not in your interest if you live here to vote R.
posted by Captain_Tenille at 10:54 AM on December 8, 2004

If you can find a way to get paid elsewhere but live in cheapville USA then it's a viable strategy. Otherwise the problem with this strategy is that local costs reflects local pay. Sure, you'll pay little rent/mortgage but your lower pay will make up a lot of the difference.

I've lived, albeit a long time ago, where small house could be purchased for 4 figures. I paid $120/month for a 2 bedroom apartment. But good luck finding a job that paid more than $6/hour within a 2 hour drive.
posted by TimeFactor at 10:56 AM on December 8, 2004

i_cola - I recently saw Chloride AZ listed in a book of ghost towns.
posted by trbrts at 11:22 AM on December 8, 2004

definitely not the bay area (esp. santa cruz) - I'm about to start paying around 1200 for a 2-bedroom, and I've had several people comment to me that that's a good deal and prices must be going down.
posted by advil at 11:25 AM on December 8, 2004

Richmond, VA's good for that. Again, not as low as the numbers you're stating, but it's got cultural opportunities, and is close to DC. And the cost of living is really reasonable.
posted by Alt F4 at 11:29 AM on December 8, 2004

I have family that just bought a four bedroom, 2,000 sq ft house with five acres for $49,000 in Senatobia, Mississippi. Roughly 30-45 miles south of Memphis. It's country living but close enough for a commute to the city if you want to do things.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 11:40 AM on December 8, 2004

Detroit (the city, not the suburbs) actually meets those criteria. Great music, cultural institutions, cheap housing, etc. Even decent pay/costs ratio. It has a university, and several other universities and colleges are nearby.

Unfortunately, red-lining is rampant - you'll pay a *lot* more for car insurance than if you live outside the city. Public transportation is dreadful. The Detroit metro area is the most racially divided area in the US, but I got a lot more hassle from white suburbanites for living in Detroit than I ever did from Detroiters of any race (I'm white).

It can be difficult to find the right neighbourhood if you aren't a local. Detroit varies greatly, block by block. It can be a difficult city to get used to, but isn't the hellhole some think.
posted by QIbHom at 11:51 AM on December 8, 2004

I'll be trying to apply this "cost of living" move theory (as previously asked about here) somewhere within striking distance to the Atlanta area. It will be nice to cut monthly housing back to triple digits compared to LA.

I do get some conflicting reports on commute traffic into Atlanta, although "the worst of any major city in the US" comes up often. ;)
posted by jca at 12:09 PM on December 8, 2004

driving an hour can get old, even if you were used to it in a big city. we moved from DC metro to Vermont. so driving 45 min to Montpelier was nothing when we first moved.

but then your perspecitve slowly changes as you adapt to your new surroundings. now 45 min seems like a bigger effort.

so be careful about that comparison.
posted by evening at 12:13 PM on December 8, 2004

jca - I lived in Atlanta for about a year and eventually moved because of the sucky traffic.
posted by bshort at 12:25 PM on December 8, 2004

was renting for $300 a month where i work shifts (la serena), just bought an appartment for $22,000 instead. bought our main appartment for $90,000 - that's a large place in a fancy part of santiago. $50,000 could you get you a reasonable house further out. chile.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:25 PM on December 8, 2004

Eugene, OR would seem to fit your criteria.

Last I checked, we were the anarchist capital of the country, so if liberal is your thing, we're it. There's a pretty good music scene for a town of ~140,000, and U of O students keep the rent cheap (Right now, I live in a two bedroom apartment total 600/mo, but it's easy to find lower than that the farther you get from campus.)

My father often talks of retiring to a college town, for exactly these reasons. Pretty quiet if you don't live real close to the campus (or Greek row), cheap, good culture, and if you feel like it you can go to interesting lectures when you want to.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 12:27 PM on December 8, 2004

ps excellent public transport. metro 5 mins walk from my front door. restaurants and shopping within easy walking distance.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:27 PM on December 8, 2004

Cleveland, Ohio. World class culture. Cheap housing. Major universities, museums, hospitals. NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball franchises. Easy commutes. Lots and lots of trees. Second biggest public library in the country (after NYC). Homes, beautiful homes.
posted by Faze at 12:40 PM on December 8, 2004

I'd live just outside Ann Arbor, Michigan. Land and rent is dirt-cheap once you get 15 minutes (plus parking) outside of town (and blessedly away from the college students); big 10 sports; academic pull on par with the Ivy's, so there are lots of intellectually interesting lectures open to the public; lots of wealthy professors, so there's no lack of high culture events; 100 - 150 thousand college students, so there's no lack of popular culture events; and great, diverse food. You can even live on a bus line, and avoid the hassle of parking.

Detroit is within easy driving distance, too, but I've never bothered.
posted by gd779 at 1:05 PM on December 8, 2004

I think you might be asking for too much. My GF and I moved out to Lincoln, Nebraska (state capital, home of the largest university in the state) basically for the reasons you mentioned. To make a long story short, it's not working out. The cost of living is cheap as hell. It's a major city, so it's got "cultural" things. It's got a university. So what's the problem?

The problem is that the attitudes of the area we live in (and probably the mid-west in general) are just not urban enough for us. Most of the people living in rural states that move to the "big city" in said rural state are from the more hayseed parts, and they bring with them the same insular outlook.

There is this false notion that I have only recently had to discover the hard way. The idea is, "If I move to a college town, it will be fine." No. If you move to a college town, and are in college, you will be fine. Plenty of people to meet, plenty of things to do at night. But if you're out of college, you're social contacts are going to be marginal at best. Fact is, most of the people my age (late 20's) are already married with children out here. Multiple children. The only friends I have here that I could consider peers have two kids, but at least they're not republicans (honestly no offense intended).

If you want to settle down, buy a house, raise some kids, then fine. Move to a small college town. You'll get that fleeting "taste" of culture when you need it, then go back to your sub-$50,000 home and cook some dinner. But if you really want an urban mentality (not just an urban existance) you have to suck it up and cough up the dough. You get what you pay for.

That's not to say there aren't different lateral-thinking approaches to your problem. The suggestions above about moving to Indonesia or Thailand are pretty astute. Provided you can find a way to make a living, the costs are unlike anything you've ever seen. But then you'll have to accept being a stranger in a strange land (and in Indonesia, an occasionally dangerous land).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:26 PM on December 8, 2004

Arlington, Texas is not a bad place to try. I grew up there and returned for Thanksgiving to find that rents and property values are amazingly low. The public schools are some of the best in the region, and its proximity to Dallas, Fort Worth and Denton provide its residents with easy access (30 minutes' drive, or less) to an array of museums, universities, and various forms of nightlife. Each of the nearby cities has its own small but vibrant art community and music scene, and the area is seeing an influx of immigration from Europe and Asia, so there is an ever-increasing variety of "ethnic" restaurants and new multicultural opportunities. Also, despite what you may think, Texas is not nearly as Red a state as, say, Montana or Utah (not that there is anything wrong with that). Arlington is also home to the Texas Rangers and soon to be home to the Dallas Cowboys.
posted by mds35 at 1:31 PM on December 8, 2004

I sometimes think about doing this; I telecommute already, so I could pretty much just pick up and move anywhere in North America, provided my destination offered a solid half-megabit connection to the Internet. But so far as I can tell, anywhere far enough from a big city to make the effort worthwhile is also too far from a big city to be interesting. "Reasonable drive", for me, is about fifteen minutes, maybe twenty. I like living in the middle of a big coastal city; it's worth the extra money it costs.

No, if I were going to leave The Big City, I'd leave, and go find myself some remote two-hundred-person mountain hamlet with beautiful wilderness scenery rolling up to my back door. Or I'd leave the country altogether, and go find some beach house in Costa Rica.

on preview: Yeah, what Civil_Disobedient said.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:43 PM on December 8, 2004

Friends pointed out that Thailand and India were about the only options that filled the bill, but I don't have the guts to try it.

Matt, Chiang Mai, Thailand rocks. You can live like a freaking king there on minimal outlay. It's the second largest city in Thailand if I recall correctly, but it isn't that big, traffic is not the bear it is in Bangkok, the scenery surrounding is incredible, food is cheap, and you can get rocky road ice cream in town at their local Swenson's.

There is a small expat community there as well. I would go there in a heartbeat if I got the chance.
posted by konolia at 2:38 PM on December 8, 2004

I've always thought that Tucson and Flagstaff, AZ would be a nice compromise between between low costs of living and urban cultural offerings. Both have colleges, 2 br. rents in the $500-$700, beautiful surroundings and a little diversity.
posted by sophie at 3:13 PM on December 8, 2004

I was thinking of suggesting Fort Worth, near Arlington, but I don't think the housing is quite that cheap in either city. You can find stuff in that price range, but I know I wouldn't want to live in those 'hoods, especially since I don't speak Spanish good enough.
posted by Doohickie at 3:23 PM on December 8, 2004

My boyfriend's uncle lives in a beautiful loft in downtown Detroit. We stayed with him during the electronic music festival, which was amazing. I found the whole postapocalyptic atmosphere of the place rather inspiring, although it could get depressing after awhile. I get the impression it is very affordable, and there is a thriving club scene if you are into electronic music.
posted by mai at 4:00 PM on December 8, 2004

Here is my take:

Richmond VA: Be careful. The city is great, but DO NOT LEAVE THE CITY. The music scene is really just so so. If you are of the LGBT persuasion I wouldn't suggest it. For the most part the suburbs are some of the worst places I have ever encountered.

Ann Arbor: A great place if you can find cheap rent. I have just signed on to staying here for a couple more years. The cost of living can be high but the city has a de facto living wage.

Detroit: Better than you would think. You can get some great places really cheap. The Art/Music/Culture scene is far beyond any city I have ever lived in.

FWIW I don't have first hand knowledge but I would look into the following cities: Spokane WA, Grand Rapids/Petosky/Traverse City MI, Savannah GA, Charlottesville VA, and Coeur dAlene ID.

If you find a city you like I would use a cost of living guide to determine what it costs w/r/t your current living situation.
posted by kscottz at 8:32 PM on December 8, 2004

In a lot of Canada, the bottom end of the renting scale is about $400 - $500 CDN monthly, which somewhat fits your bill.

Just sayin'...
posted by shepd at 6:22 AM on December 9, 2004

I think Baltimore has just what you are looking for. Cheap living, especially if you don't mind urban chic. Good culture, although some of it is pretty wierd (John Waters' movies are not about irony, they're about Baltimore). DC less than an hour away. NYC withing easy distance for a weekend etc. It's not the prettiest place in the world.
posted by OmieWise at 7:41 AM on December 9, 2004

FWIW I don't have first hand knowledge but I would look into the following cities: Spokane WA, Grand Rapids/Petosky/Traverse City MI

Traverse City has a lot of tourists, and places with a lot of tourists are the most expensive places to live in Michigan, with the possible exception of Oakland County. Anywhere by Lake Michigan will cost you. A lot.

The city of Grand Rapids is a very nice place, a totally different vibe than its suburbs. Several colleges, lots of little arts communities, fun music venues, cool shops, coffeeshops, ethnic food, etc. There's a thriving Hispanic community on the West Side and Asian American community along South Division. Public transit is so-so but if you live downtown, that's where the hub is, so that makes it a lot easier than getting from one suburb to another. Also, Detroit and Chicago are both about 3 hours away.
posted by dagnyscott at 8:12 AM on December 9, 2004

In two weeks I'm moving to Tucson, based on the harebrained idea that it's an interesting, cheap college town with a good arts scene and warm weather, plus an entirely different cultural history than I'm used to. I've never been there, and have one minor acquaintance in the city. We'll see how it works out.

I really dig Pittsburgh, PA. People my age (24) routinely buy houses for ~$30k or less because the combination of price & low-interest housing loans makes it undeniably a better deal than rent. There's a small-but-vibrant arts scene, lots of local music, a really f'n cool history, strong social services for low-income families & many nonprofit organizations, winding streets & lots of trees, three major universities and maybe 5 other smaller ones within the city limits--including Carnegie Mellon, which provides the city with a ton of tech-related opportunities & art projects. The downside is that winter's cold, it's far from other major cities, and public transport is expensive & rapidly worsening.

A good friend just moved to Lexington, KY, and loves it for the small-town feel & enough Indian groceries he'll never run out of paratha & mango pickle for breakfast. Sounds like heaven to me.
posted by soviet sleepover at 1:05 AM on December 20, 2004

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