Cheap and good?


Who you calling cheap?

Forbes has ranked the Albany metro area the sixth best among "cheap cities."

So, hey, good for the Capital Region. And we agree that are a lot good things about living here. But we're not so sure about the "cheap" designation...

Sure, houses here aren't super expensive. But they're not exactly cheap, either. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median single family home price in the Capital Region was $184,500 during the first quarter of 2009. The national median price was $169,9000.

Residential customers in New York paid 17.45 cents per kWh in April 2009, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. The national average was 11.59 cents. In fact, New Yorkers paid more for electricity than residential customers in all but three other states.

New York had the second-highest tax burden in the country last year, according to the Tax Foundation.

Gasoline prices
Gas prices in New York -- and the Capital Region -- are consistently above the national average, according to AAA.

Other rankings
According to Sperling's Best Places, the overall cost living here slightly above the national average. And for the cost of food, utilities and health here is way above the national average. The only thing keeping the Capital Region's overall score so low is the below-average housing prices (though that conflicts with the most recent data).

Obviously, this list isn't comprehensive. And, of course, there are more expensive places -- this isn't California. But maybe "cheap" isn't the right word, either. Especially if that obscures problems like the high taxes here.


I was wondering about that too. I wouldn't really call Albany the epitome of cheap places to live. Maybe they're also taking job stability or something like that into account since they're comparing 'boomtowns'?

Take a look at how they selected the cities.

From the full article: "we measured America's 380 metropolitan statistical areas and metropolitan divisions (or metros)--geographic entities defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget for use by federal agencies in collecting, tabulating and publishing federal statistics--and picked out the 100 cheapest [...] We then rated them across four quality-of-life measures: violent crime rate, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation; unemployment rate, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; average salary for college grads, from, and cultural opportunity..."

So, first, we're only comparing metro areas. Sure there are lots of cheaper places to live, but a lot of them are suburban or rural centers. Once you start talking about denser urban centers, it becomes apparent pretty quickly that stats like Albany's average home price is pretty low. So low, in fact, that if you talk to people from other states they might not even believe you.

Secondly, they considered more than just dollars. There is definite value in things like crime stats and "cultural opportunity". Sadly, Albany doesn't compare too favorably with other similarly sized cities on crime, but as this is a smaller metro area, it does compare well with larger urban centers. What I assume really helped push Albany to the top of the heap is this "cultural opportunity" rating. In the city of Albany alone we have dozens upon dozens of restaurants spanning price ranges and cuisines; multiple movie theaters and traditional stage theaters; more than a handful of venues for live performances ranging from tiny dives to bars attracting national talent to larger stages and a stadium; an excellent library system that provides a range of free activities on a regular basis; free events, including alive at five, the plaza concert series (unfortunately severely scaled back this year), the Washington Park series (also scaled back), holiday parades, tulip fest, art on Lark, Lark fest, first fridays, and more; the Albany Institute of History and art and the State Museum; and ample local businesses in each of albany's neighborhoods, many of which have been profiled here on AOA -- just to name a small slice of Albany's culture.

Cost of living is a fungible, amorphous figure that takes into account much more than a simple tally of your bills. You could easily move out to somewhere in the middle of Wyoming and live for a fraction of the cost of living in Albany, but you'd have to drive 150 miles to find half of what this area offers. You can't put a price on living in a place that just makes you look forward to the time you get to spend there.

B took my comment.

Came here from the northern edge of the DFW metroplex. This area is definitely not cheap. And where I'm originally from I could have a just built 1,800 sq ft. brick with 3br/2ba and on 1/2 acre for the same price as a 95 year old 1,200 sq ft. with a yard the 1/2 the size of a putting green. Gas, heat, food, restaurants, movies, clothes, health insurance, all of it cheaper than since I moved here. Cuts in quality of life, raises in expenses is what I saw moving here. That's not a complaint, I actually love living here. It's just I've lived the math and cheap this area isn't.

I'm certainly not the only one. Remember the map you posted months ago showing the flight out of NY and the low retention of native borns relative to other states?

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