I recently visited my daughter in New York City. She got a job in Manhattan last July and had been subletting and couch surfing until January when she signed a lease for a two-bedroom apartment on the outskirts of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. $1,900 per month. Gulp.
Even with a roommate splitting the costs, the rent seemed ridiculous to me. Especially compared with the $700 mortgage we pay on our old, four-bedroom Cape on a half-acre in Harpswell. Could shelter in the city really be that expensive?
I was anxious to see what $1,900 a month got you in Brooklyn. The wood floors and pressed tin ceiling in her bedroom were nice, and I was relieved to see a Catholic church, school and rectory right across the street. The kitchen and living area were tiny and there wasn't a decent closet to speak of in the entire apartment. The apartment building itself was a little sketchy, but I saw no evidence of vermin and, for the two nights I was there, it was pretty quiet.
Still — $1,900 a month. That's what was in the back of my mind as I read Senior Writer Randy Billings' cover story on housing developments in Portland, "Full house." Housing prices, even for those designated "affordable," struck me as high. Again, I was comparing them with my own mortgage. But in comparison with what my daughter is paying, they seem like a steal. I guess it's a classic example of free market dynamics: landlords can get the rent the market allows.
Maybe someday my daughter will come back to Maine and enjoy the relative affordability of housing here. Portland especially has lots to offer young people, including the vibrancy of an emerging technology sector, as consultant Russell Voss notes in his commentary, "Transferring knowledge," on page 23, part of this issue's focus on Greater Portland. And check out Randy's exploration of a Maine startup, Zylo Media, that is trying to turn the world of advertising on its head, in "Game on," starting on page 24.
Also in this issue, we take a look at the economic impact of scant snowfall this season, in "Powder play" on page 18. While ski resorts report good conditions thanks to their snow-making abilities, the snowmobilers must rely on Mother Nature who, since that freak snowfall at Halloween, has been spare with the white stuff around much of Maine this winter.
Despite the lack of snow, mud season will undoubtedly be, well, muddy. I have a good antidote for those late-winter doldrums if you live around Bangor. Join us at our On The Road reception March 21 at the Hilton Garden Inn. It's a great chance to mingle with other business folks and, for us, it's an opportunity to hear what's on your mind. It's free, but you must register. Check out the details at mainebiz.biz/ontheroad.