What High Prices Mean

High home prices mean that this argument should not be the least bit persuasive to city council members voting on the Bethlehem zoning ordinance:

“I would have thought twice about buying the beautiful house I live in now if there was an office building because I don’t want it commercialized,” East Market Street resident Mary Anne Lynch said.

If you look at the prices on this map, you will see that the homes closest to downtown are priced higher than ones further away. The most expensive homes in Bethlehem are mostly clustered around downtown, and ones near the historic district are especially expensive.

What does this mean? It means lots of people would like to live in that neighborhood. The high prices are the exchange value. They represent how much money Mary Anne Lynch and owners of similar properties could trade their very beautiful homes for.

That people are willing to pay a lot more for these homes than for other homes means that Mary Anne Lynch should have very little political leverage in this zoning fight. Lots and lots of people would be very happy to take her place, so there’s no political imperative to do what she wants.

If city council allows businesses to use storefronts in the neighborhood, and Mary Anne Lynch decides she prefers to live in a single-use residential neighborhood because of this, the neighborhood is certainly not going to collapse. All that’s going to happen is that a different person will buy her house who does prefer to live in a mixed use neighborhood.

If this was a fragile neighborhood teetering on the edge of decline, rich people threatening to leave would carry more political weight. But does anybody really think no other rich people are going to buy these beautiful homes if the current owners take their toys and go live somewhere else? Please.


  1. So you want to take away Mary Anne Lynch’s neighborhood and give it to someone else? Your communist roots are showing again comrade.

    Mrs. Lynch bought a house in the neighborhood she wanted to be in. It’s because of a combination of a well-run city (Callahan notwithstanding) and investments by people like her that have made the neighborhood what it is.

    It is not up to her to move because of what you (or others) want.

  2. LOL it would be her choice to sell! Where is the “taking” happening in this scenario? There’s absolutely no coercion here. There’s a strong argument for letting more people enjoy this neighborhood, that is not seriously challenged by Mrs. Lynch’s argument that she wouldn’t like living a neighborhood with more people. If that’s her preference, she can get a lot of money for her house and go live somewhere she likes better.

  3. You’re forcing someone to move and there’s no coercion?

    It was her choice on the neighborhood, and you want to change it, then tell her that if she still wants what she had she has to move.

    You don’t see that you’re telling her to do what I’m telling you to do? If you want something that isn’t there, go somewhere else?

    Jeez you’re dense.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      But nobody is forcing anyone to move. If she did, that would be her choice. Personally I think she would see that the neighborhood is even better with more businesses and stuff to do, and wouldn’t move. The argument for allowing even more housing and business growth in the best areas of the city is strong. That’s how you get a larger market downtown, that’s how you keep housing affordable, and that’s how you grow the economy. There are broad-based benefits to relaxing zoning restrictions on how many people can use the city’s most valuable land. A few people would prefer to keep it to themselves, but there is just no public interest that is served by doing that. People who prefer a lot of privacy should choose to live further away from downtown if that’s what they value.

  4. Jon,

    I can see the argument for mixed use, but your argument makes no sense. She can live in the kind of neighborhood she wants somewhere else, but she can’t live in the kind of neighborhood she likes as it is right now? how does that work?

    Your valuation is skewed. It isn’t only about location. People don’t want to live in Bethlehem because it is near a fresh water supply in the Monocacy Creek like they did 250 years ago. They want to live near the neighborhood because it looks nice and has a certain kind of way of life that people find attractive. Put up 500 wooden wigwams or 35 Soviet apartment buildings and the value of the neighborhood isn’t the same. I don’t think that would reflect that the neighborhood is “better” overall.

Speak Your Mind