Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific Standard, GOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
A sign your city may have finally become way, way too expensive.
To be clear, this is just a thought exercise. But it neatly sums up everything that's so terrifying about the housing market in a city like London.
Sam Cookney, a social media manager who lives there, recently calculated that local rent was so steep he'd be better off commuting to work every day... by plane... from Barcelona. Here's his math, published this week by The Daily Mail (which was equally astounded).
Cookney tallied up the typical rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the West Hampstead part of London (£1,505), local tax (£75) and the fare for a month-long pass on public transit (£116.60). (He chose West Hempstead, he says, because "it doesn’t seem a stretch to suggest that a young professional may afford to live there.") Total: £1,697 a month.
In Barcelona, he scopes out a seaside three-bedroom flat (£580), transportation to and from the airport and a whole lot of Ryanair flights (£778). Total: £1,358 per month.
Now, a couple of caveats from Cookney's scratch sheet: His plan has him commuting four days a week, working from Barcelona on Fridays. And the scheme would never work between high-cost and affordable cities in America, where we have no equivalent to bargain airlines like Ryanair that shuttle people for the equivalent of about 40 bucks.
This is also the least environmental way imaginable to get to work. And no one wants to go through airport security or deal with fickle plane travel every day. But the exercise highlights the perverse incentives that insanely unaffordable cities can create. And mega-commuters – maybe not this mega – actually do exist.