One in seven Americans now receives food stamps. Leftist politicians rage about inequality. The media trumpets that almost half the country is “poor or near poor.” And yet the average “poor” family has a car, two color TVs, cable or satellite TV, a VCR, a DVD player, air conditioning, and a cell phone, in addition to a washer and dryer, refrigerator, stove, and microwave. That suggests that poverty, as the government is now defining it, has little to do with poverty as most people think of it. I decided to look at various American cities to see what kind of house someone at the poverty level could afford to buy or rent. First stop: my home town, Pittsburgh.
Ground rules: These are houses that a family earning $22,000 could afford to buy with a fixed-rate 30-year mortgage, given the traditional metric that no more than 28% of income go toward a house payment. People who are willing to gamble on ARMs could do even better.
In Pittsburgh, such a hypothetical family would have about 500 homes to choose from, most in excellent neighborhoods. Here’s a selection. All of these are in pleasant neighborhoods, have large rooms, and are more spacious than the house I lived in as a child. All have interior photographs showing them to be in first-rate condition. They are, frankly, gorgeous. I’d be more than happy to live in any of them.