Hilarity and Affordable Housing and the NY Times, II

One of the prerogatives of being on the VC blog is that one can take prior discussions and reframe them more to one's liking. The comments on my previous post ("Hilarity (Presumably Unintentional) at the New York Times") were quite interesting, and I want to respond.

Some commenters took me to task for my "childish" tone. Well, what can you do -- getting "tone" right for all readers in a blog (especially a collective blog) is a tough thing to do. But the Times editorial actually made me laugh out loud, it was so silly -- and I was trying to get you to see how silly it was.

So I'll try again. The editorial begins with a description of a building that has opened up on the Upper West Side and that offers "dormitory-style" living, aimed at the recent-college-graduate market. It's a damned good idea -- I lived in NYC recently and in the past, and I'm the parent of a recent-college-graduate who is among the zillions of recent college graduates piling into NYC. There is indeed a "shortage of affordable housing."

So you'd think the Times would say: "this looks like a damned good idea; we hope it spreads." Here's what they say:

"It’s an idea that could spread. Recent graduates working long hours and filling their free time with dates and parties require little more than places to sleep and communal stoves to boil the occasional pot of noodles. Dormitory living also carries a whiff of nostalgia. It almost sounds like fun until you stop and remind yourself that these dorms for adults arise from the rigors of the housing market and not from any desire to live in close quarters with strangers.

"It almost sounds like fun ..." If I took a "childish" tone in my original posting, perhaps it was because I was following the Times' lead. Who said anything about it being fun?

But it is, to the Times, not fun -- no, it's not fun, because these dorms "arise from the rigors of the housing market and not from any desire to live in close quarters with strangers."

Come on, people -- look at that sentence! Surely you must agree that it is, if not laugh-out-loud funny, very odd. I don't even know where to begin. It would be "fun," except that it came from the market. What does that mean?

And (2) it came from the market, and not "from any desire to live in close quarters with other people."

What, renters are going to be herded in at gunpoint? If someone rents an apartment in that place, seems to me they do "want to live in close quarters with other people" -- at that price, they're willing buyers. Would they rather live in Greenwich with the editors of the NY Times? Sure -- who wouldn't. But that, as I would have expected the editors of the Times to understand, is not the way the world works.

But wait -- there's more!

"There is a nobler alternative — to make affordable housing a higher priority for a city that caters more and more to its richest residents. Families with small children that are living off dishwashers’ and even teachers’ pay are also adrift in this cutthroat market. For the working poor, and increasingly for middle-class families, dorms are not an option, but neither is the going rate on a comfortable home."

Not "better," or "more likely to provide affordable housing," or "more efficient" -- no, a "nobler" alternative. "For the working poor, dorms are not an option." Um, thank you, NY Times, for telling me what the working poor consider to be their options -- as if you had the faintest idea! Actually, they are an option -- now. [Didn't this start out as an editorial about precisely that? about the opening of a dormitory-style building??] Maybe the "working poor" will choose that option, maybe they won't. That's why we have entrepreneurs. We'll find out. But for the Times to have already decided -- it's just

There's something about the Times editorial board trying to tell me what the working poor consider their options to be, and about the extent to which people "desire to live in close quarters," that I find hilarious -- I'm thinking of what Mark Twain could do have done with material like this, or Monty Python.

But I guess it's like explaining a joke. If you don't think it's funny, you don't think it's funny, and that's that.