Where should I live?

The following options are apparently open to Dr. Schweitzer.

1. West Adams, local neighborhood surrounding USC.
–could walk to work.
–could more easily pop in and pop out for meetings and seminars.
–could invest in a neighborhood that I think has some very nice housing stock and that has suffered for years from disinvestment.
–will undoubtedly grow in value over time.

–going to work more often is not necessarily a good thing
–would be yuppie gentrifier in a neighborhood where that’s not particularly welcome (for good reasons)
–most of these houses are old and in bad shape and need time, money, and attention–and I have little time.
–there are a terrifying number of foreclosures and houses for sale. I have little idea what this community will be like in the next 5 years.

2. Long Beach, cute seaside community
–cute seaside community
–seems to have a very dog-friendly yet urban environment
–quite walkable, but most housing right near transit not terribly desirable
–the only even remotely affordable ocean area left in southern California
–would be more sheltered from work and would be less likely to spend time in my office. I get more research done when I am not in my office than when I am there.
–would be able to take transit to campus, particularly when the Expo line is done.
–housing stock appears to be in much better shape

–cute, seaside community notwithstanding, Long Beach has had some terrible gang problems;
— the commute via transit will be well over an hour in one direction. That’s two hours, morning and night.
–nobody will visit me, undoubtedly. All my LA friends scream when I say that I’m looking at Long Beach. And even though much closer, I suspect that my friends in Orange county won’t cross the Orange Curtain to see me there either.
–I’m terrified of being on the freeway, should transit not be an option for some trips in LA, and it’s often not, and that will restrict much of my activity to Long Beach.

3. Staying where I am at: DTLA
1. Close to campus, easy bus ride or drop off for Andy
2. I already know the community
3. There are some nice condos (though not many)

1. I hate not having a garden. Yah, yah, yah, I know patio/balcony gardens, right? Every New Urbanist’s answer to the garden question. Try finding any balcony space in DTLA for less than a million and get back to me.
2. It’s a PITA to have to take the dogs outside
3. I don’t love it here.
4. I pay way too much rent.
5. My husband is home all day, and I can’t get any work done at home with him here. Right now, working at home is a nightmare; working at my USC office is a nightmare. I need some privacy to write–always have–and writing is a big part of my job.

4. Give up on California and look for jobs in places where I can actually afford to settle down and my dean doesn’t tell me every time he looks at me to become an economist.


Fairly obvious.

1. I love USC, my students, and my colleagues, and I very much like my dean.

2. I hate moving.

3. It’s cold other places.

4. The other places where it isn’t cold, I don’t really want to live in the south. (No yelling at me. I’ve lived in the south and if there is one thing that southerners know how to make obvious: how much they’d rather you not live there, too.)


Yang Zhang on Environmental Hazards and Housing Choice

Virginia Tech’s Yang Zhang has an interesting manuscript in this issue of the Journal of Planning Education and Research on housing choice and risk perception.

Zhang, Y. 2010. Residential housing choice in a multihazard environment: Implications for natural hazards mitigation and community environmental justice. Journal of Planning Education and Research. doi:10.1177/0739456X10381386.

This study examines residents’ housing decisions in a multihazard environment (flood, hurricane, and toxic chemicals). The combination of a hedonic price model and a household survey conducted in Harris County, Texas, indicates that flood hazard was an important factor in households’ housing decisions, but not hurricane and toxic materials hazards. The results have further suggested that home buyers were poorly informed about hurricane and toxic materials hazards when housing decisions were made and came to understand their vulnerability only while living in hazard-prone neighborhoods. Moreover, it appears that low-income households and minorities were the least-informed group in the housing market. These findings provide implications for using hazard information programs to promote community resilience to natural hazards and community environmental justice.

There are some things you can quibble with here: for some reason, the study includes a poorly defined access measure (perceived importance of accessibility)–which I can’t imagine survey respondents answering in a consistent way—and little else about housing characteristics in a hedonic specification. That leaves the study open to criticism about latent variables. Is lack of access (or having access) really a deal-breaker in this Texas County? How much difference in supply does one have to choose from in the housing markets, no matter how much difference there might be in preference?

Nonetheless, the idea is a good one, and his point is more about the difficulties of housing choice in markets about multiple hazards, at least a couple of which are low-probability hazards, when information is not cost-free.

The problem with leaving out the rest of what would be a fuller specification is that we could also explain differences in willingness to accept housing in hazard-prone area by other factors, such as relative school quality. Or a preference ordering of hazards, based on information preferences (or not): so some aspects of air quality are hyped over and over, but information about toxic events is harder to come by and the events are low-profile and infrequent, so households locate according to one set of information but not the other—and even risk people can’t seem to agree on which is the more important source of risk: locating near small but chronic hazards or near low-probability larger hazards.