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Thread: Affordable, non-ghetto/slum neighborhoods/suburbs in expensive metros

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Mar 1996
    Upstate New York
    Blog entries

    Affordable, non-ghetto/slum neighborhoods/suburbs in expensive metros

    After watching too many HGTV shows where prospective first-time homebuyersare parades through $400K shacks in Los Angeles, Toronto and Chicago without even batting an eye, I'm curious as to whether there are any decent, yet still affordable neighborhoods in North American metro areas that are otherwise known for expensive real estate prices.

    I'll give an example, but it's a decade old: in 1999, I bought a bungalow in the West Highlands/Berkeley neighborhood in northwest Denver. At the time, Denver was experiencing a real estate boom, and while the suburbs remained more-or-less affordable, almost every decent neighborhood in the city proper had real estate prices in the stratosphere - except parts of Northwest Denver, where one could still pick up a decent, architecturally interesting house in the $150K range.

    Not too long ago, I saw another "first time homebuyer" show on HGTV, where a young couple were being shown houses in the $250K range in Northwest Denver. They were all shacks, in much worse condition than the fixer-upper bungalow I bought a decade ago. I'm under the impression that ALL of metro Denver is unaffordable to mere mortals now, except maybe the far eastern fringes of Aurora where one might be closer to the Kansas state line than downtown Denver. True?

  2. #2
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
    May 2003
    Staff meeting
    The McKinley Park neighborhood on Chicago's southwest side is still pretty accessible. It's got a nice large neighborhood park, direct access to an L line (Orange Line between the Loop and Midway airport), houses in the $200,000-$300,000 range (which is pretty good for a non-slum city neighborhood), is not fashionable but has walkability and decent commercial corridors, and never really degenerated.

    As for suburbs that I know, the cities of St. Charles (far western suburb about 45 miles from the Loop) and Berwyn (near western suburb about 10 miles from the Loop) are still "affordable".

    St. Charles is an old river town that was clearly separate from Metro Chicago until the 1960s or so and there are a good number of nice smaller homes around the downtown in the sub-$300,000 range.

    Berwyn is a straight up streetcar suburb built-out by the 1930s. It has an amazing housing stock of mostly single family Chicago bungalows and some nice early 20th century houses around the commuter rail stations in its sleepy downtown. During the bubble, the housing was hyper inflated, but over the past couple months has dropped down to reality. One can easily find dozens of nice 2-3 bed bungalows for $150,000-250,000.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Every day is today. Yesterday is a myth and tomorrow an illusion.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
    Feb 2004
    Chicago, IL
    I'm under the impression Northwest Indiana, yes its home to Gary, it still pretty affordable and is closer to Chicago than some of the suburbs in Illinois. I'm pretty sure its not all slums like Gary. Its probably not the most exciting place to live but if your simply looking for a place to live it seems like it would be adequate. As for the city Hegewisch in the extreme south side also looks relatively affordable with small bungalows going for 200k, I'm under the impression that its the kind of area that time forgot and still has a certain old school blue color feel to it. Here's a local bar: http://www.forgottenbuffalo.com/clas...veslounge.html

  4. #4
    Cyburbian drucee's avatar
    Aug 2004
    I love Berwyn. It's one of those communities where every home has character, and has remained stable and affordable even through the most recent bubble. There's a major push by the city of Berwyn now to get city couples in their 30s to settle there rather than hauling ass to Naperville or Plainfield. Forest Park, Berwyn's northwestern neighbor, has a slightly older housing stock, 24-hour El service and a vibrant main street with bars and restaurants on Madison. It is even slightly more affordable than Berwyn, but whereas Berwyn is zoned to the solid Morton West high school, Forest Park students attend Proviso East, which has something of a "troubled" reputation.

    Within the city of Chicago, West Ridge, on the north side of the city near the Devon Avenue South Asian shopping district, offers 1920s-1950s bungalows for under $350,000 and brand-new condos for under $250,000. West Ridge is home to Chicago's top-rated high school, Northside College Prep.

    The sub-$300k single-family home can also be found in Portage Park (Northwest Side), Albany Park (Northwest Side), and Dunning (Northwest Side), including some great pre-WWII character homes.

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