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My First Rental: City Wage Tax is for Suckers

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By Tim Ford
When I found myself in that most loathsome of categories, "Recent College Graduate of Large State University," I had no choice, as a certifiably terrible human being, but to move as close as possible to the dude-soup that is Manayunk. This made sense for several reasons. I was 23 years old and my top priority in a living space was "walking distance to bar(s)." I was newly gainfully employed at a corporate job in King of Prussia (23 year olds could get those back in the spring of 2007), and I did not want to live in King of Prussia. And, Manayunk seemed downright urbane compared to the rural college theme park I had been living in for the past four years. (There's public transportation! It takes you to Center City in 20 minutes!)

I had only had one hang-up about Manayunk (at the time): city wage tax. Since Manayunk is technically inside Philadelphia, residents have to pay the almost 4% tax on top of federal and state income taxes. But since I didn't work inside the city of Philadelphia, I wouldn't have to pay if I lived outside the city, too. The perfect solution? A three bedroom apartment in Belmont Hills, a neighborhood in Lower Merion Township just on the other side of the Schuylkill River from Manayunk. My two roommates and I could walk across the Green Lane bridge, go to any obnoxious spot on Main Street, and forego the wage tax.

The apartment itself was ideal ... to a point. We had the entire upper floor of a duplex with nearly 1,500 square feet of space. We gave Messy Roommate the master suite because if he was going to not clean a bathroom, we didn't want to have to ever see it. The other roommate and I shared the very 1969 blue and pink tile hall bath. Its galley kitchen was equally 1969-chic: dark wood cabinets with odd western accents, a tan laminate countertop, a built-in electric wall oven, an electric range with a giant, yellowed Chuck Wagon range hood. No wall separated the kitchen and living room and the cabinets between the two areas were double sided, which was very strange but you could open up both sides of the cabinets while cooking and see the TV in the living area. Because that was important in 1969, I guess. Our mishmash of inherited furniture, including the most uncomfortable sofa of all time and an oversized leather chair with awful sun stains, took up space in the giant living area, which had a great view of the Roxborough ridge across the river. Three off-street parking spaces were the icing on the cake, that and the only $1,500/month rent.

Of course, Manayunk gets old quick. We stayed for 2 years because it was huge, cheap and convenient-ish, but pulled the plug and decided to live during the week where we spent all of our weekends: Center City.