The other day Alan remarked that The New York Times needs to employ more people who don’t live in New York. He was carping about some illustrations in this story – “that isn’t a come-along, and who wants Blundstones to wade through disaster debris?” – that for the record, I consider fairly minor quibbles. But I’d been thinking the same thing after listening to a podcast they did about the affordability crisis in large coastal cities.
Totally valid story, that one, and something we’ve been discussing in the comments here, of late. But their suggestions of the “affordable” cities young educated people are allegedly fleeing to? Austin. Phoenix. Miami. Atlanta. Um, hello? And the episode started so promisingly, with a young woman who’d left Brooklyn because she realized she’d never be able to own anything, much less the bar she aspired to run, if she stayed in New York. She’s now in Birmingham, Alabama, with not one but two bars, a big house with a yard, a car and four dogs. But those other four cities? All have median home prices above $500,000, with the exception of Atlanta, where it’s $400,000, but you’d happily pay the extra $100,000 to escape from its typical traffic jams.
I waited to hear mention of…well, why not Columbus, Ohio? Indianapolis? St. Louis? Or are they all lost to us, too? When we drove to Nashville in March, we stopped for the night in Cincinnati, and found a hotel on the Kentucky side of the river. The desk clerk informed us that we probably couldn’t get a house there, either, at least not in a nice area close to the river, for much less than half a mil.
So I guess we’re staying put, at least until Michigan comes fully into its own as the Saudi Arabia of fresh water. This column is paywalled and the Detroit News doesn’t do gift links, but it tracks precisely with my thinking after the census showed Michigan again failing to grow very much, and the powers that be announced a study group to come up with a growth strategy. I’ll quote more liberally than I usually do:
During her annual address at last week’s Mackinac Policy Conference, Whitmer said Michigan “will be a climate refuge” in one breath, but then in the next said the state shouldn’t make that the strategy to address the fact Michigan has leaped from the 29th oldest state in 2000 to the 13th oldest state in the 2020 Census.
“But our population goals cannot be cynically fueled by climigrants — these are people who migrate to Michigan because of climate change,” Whitmer said. “It’s got to be driven by our ability to address global challenges and what we have to offer.”
What Michigan has to offer climigrants is water and mostly predictable four seasons of weather. (Yes, it snows. Get over it, folks. Nature is beautiful.)
The global challenge is going to be access to fresh water. Michigan has got 21% of it — and 80% of North America’s freshwater is contained in our Great Lakes, our thousands of inland lakes and rivers, and our deep underground aquifers.
Whether it’s for human consumption, growing food, sustaining forests or building electric vehicle batteries, Michigan has the water to sustain our future and the other states won’t — and state and other officials should not be omitting that from the sales pitch of why people should move to Michigan.
Bingo, although I’m a little concerned about referring to the Great Lakes as “ours.” (Swim across all but one of them, and you come ashore in Canada.) Not only that, you can still get a house here for less than $400,000, or even $300,000. Plus we have great music, friendly people and reproductive freedom now embedded in the state constitution.
Meanwhile, Axios informed me this morning, two major insurers are no longer writing homeowner policies in California, and new-home construction is being restricted in Phoenix for, guess why, lack of groundwater.
So, Phoenix as the bolt hole for fleeing Angelenos? Miami — ha ha! Miami! with hurricanes and rising sea levels! — for New Yorkers? I don’t think so.
Waiting for a firestorm or hurricane to get you? Try Michigan. You can sprinkle your lawn here, even though we, too, are in an extended dry spell. All we have to worry about are occasional tornados. And the housing is (relatively) cheap. You can be my neighbor.