BRAC’d Couple Enjoying New Home in Alabama

by ARLnow.com June 14, 2011 at 8:30 am 3,659 59 Comments

Thanks to the Base Realignment and Closure Act, Chris and Carrie Arnold were forced to move themselves and their two young children from their 1,000 square foot Arlington condo to Huntsville, Alabama.

According to a local newspaper, the couple is glad they moved.

“It’s easier to breathe down here,” Chris Arnold told the Huntsville Times. “There’s more space, and it’s not that same kind of pressure on your chest as you have when you’re in a heavily populated area… D.C. was a concrete jungle.”

Arnold, who works for the Missile Defense Agency, says he’s also happy to live “somewhere that was more family-friendly, a place with a yard, a place where people wouldn’t look at you funny if you left work at 5 p.m.”

  • Whatever…

    I work for DoD, and more than half leave by 3:30. By 4:30, 90% of people have gone home for the day.

    I roll my eyes when people complain they can’t afford a SFH here with a yar–but they have only one parent working.

    Glad they’re happy, though.

    • JamesE

      I am at a FFRDC and this place is a ghost town at 4 pm, and noon if a Friday.

  • doodly

    If I ever find Alabama better than Arlington, please kill me.

    • Have you ever been to any part of Alabama?

      • Eponymous Coward

        Having visited Alabama for both business and pleasure (a term I apply loosely), I share Doodly’s sentiment. Still, nice to know BRAC’d families are happier.

        That being said, I lived in the concrete jungle, I know the concrete jungle. The concrete jungle is a friend of mine. And D.C., you’re no concrete jungle.

        • I’ve been to several of the “urban” areas of Alabama and also to the Gulf coast on Mobile Bay. I found the “urban” areas to be similar to other smaller US cites. I thought Birmingham was nice but I was on business. The Alabama shore was a good place to vacation. But, I would not want to live there. I can see people would though, and I didn’t see the typical Alabama stereotype in the times I’ve been there. Of course, I avoided the back road part of the state which I imagine could be very poor.

          NYC is a concrete jungle, DC is not. DC is just concrete. Parts of it are a jungle too. LOL.

          • doodly

            Yes, the truth is that their experience is not about Arlington vs. Alabama, it’s urban vs. rural. They could have moved a few yards from their condo and had a typical suburban house with a yard and a small town feel. The difference is that they would have had to pay probably ALOT more than what they paid for their home in Alabama.

          • Burger

            –few yards from their condo and had a typical suburban house with a yard and a small town feel–

            Um…where in DC are you talking about? a few yards.

          • Western Prince William, Loudoun, Fauquier. That’s it. And still a lot more money.

          • Hattie McDaniel

            Aurora Heights, Brookland, Chevy Chase DC, parts of Hyattsville, Kennsington. There are plenty if you look. Not as cheap as AL needless to say.

          • R. Griffon

            I think that’s the point, Hattie. Many (most?) working families can’t’ afford the price of a single family home near the city.

          • Burger


            And the schools? Therein lies the issue. Sure, you can afford those places with a yard but you are likely going to have to send your kids to private school eventually. You might make it through 5-6th grade in public schools in those areas, but in no way would I send my kid to a DC public high school a PG county school.

            But, of course, there is a reason I live in Arlington, too.

          • doodly


            Not DC, Arlington. They lived in a condo in Arlington. There are probably single-family homes very close. The single-family, yarded home is quite common in Arlington, it’s hardly a “concrete jungle.” The problem isn’t finding one, it’s finding one you can afford.

      • Jason

        I grew up in Huntsville, AL from 89-00. I graduated from Grissom and attended Butler. I know more about that podunck town than anyone probably on this board. I go there several times a year and I could never imagine living there. I live in the DMV area and love it. I live actually in Arlington. Huntsville lacks culture, the people are less diverse and except for the transplanted people who work on RSA close minded and under educated. I know these seem like stereotypes. But this is comming from a Huntsvillian through and through. If you like low housing coast relatively no traffic but completely no culture no night life and Super Wal-Mart is considered a place to shop then Huntsville is for you. The town is great for retirees and possibly family oriented people. If you are single and like going out you wont like Huntsville.

  • In more news, the Arnold’s have purchased a new single family home with a yard in a family-oriented neighborhood for half of what they were paying for their 1000 square foot condo.

    Pros and cons….

  • Lacey Forest

    I lived in Huntsville for 7 years and will tell you that if you are married with a couple of kids, Huntsville is a great place to raise a family. At one point Huntsville had (and they may still have) the greatest number of PhDs per capita of any US city which had a lot to do with them having very good public schools. The parents demand it. The cost of living is very reasonable, and the values in the metro area are very family-friendly (in a good way). True, you don’t have to go very far outside of Huntsville to find the rest of Alabama, but those moving to Huntsville will probably find it to their liking.

  • Thomas

    So, a couple (turned young family) from Tennesee and Oklahoma are more comfortable in Alabama than in DC? No surprise there, but why throw DC under the bus and use BRAC as the excuse?

  • OX4

    Forget culture, the arts, great concerts, and walkability. I have a yard!!

    • Burger

      If you have a couple of kids, a yard is a pretty quintessential element of owning a home and most of the culture arts, concerts, etc goes out the door while they are younger.

      • JamesE

        That and small children really should be banned from apartments and condos.

        • G


        • R. Griffon

          I’m surprised someone hasn’t addressed this “adults-only” niche on the apartments side, but I’m not sure if it could be done legally with condos. Say a young couple buys a condo – you can’t legally force them out b/c they had a kid.

          Now that I think about it, I’m not sure you could do it for apartments either. Fair housing, discrimination, and all that. But I feel your pain.

          Protip: Always live on the top floor. Not only will you avoid the sounds of little (and big) feet on the ceiling, but families will also generally avoid the higher premiums that such units command.

        • danielobvt

          Tough. It is amazing that it happens all the time in the city that everyone holds up as an example, NYC. My Mom grew up in a 2BR apartment that had 3 adults and 3 children in it… Yards are vastly overrated….
          I plan to start and keep my family in my condo (since I have 0 plans to ever leave Arlington and unless I win the lotto the odds me being able to afford of moving into a SFH in the County is minimal). So sorry to burst your child-free existance…

          • JamesE

            I am glad I offended you so much, hopefully you get plenty of noise violations.

          • Burger


            That’s great but your view is a very small minority. Most people want a yard.

            Let’s also not really argue with the fact that any decent 3 bedroom condo in Arlington is going to cost you the price of a decent sized single family home.

            Also, given your are likely male from your signature but your future wife might have a different view once you have kids running around your condo.

          • doodly

            Millions and millions of people live in cities, without yards, so saying “most people want a yard” is a bit presumptuous.

          • Burger

            Ah, of course you need to butt in.

            We aren’t talking about people around the world but Americans and specifically the ones from the article.

          • doodly

            Oh, sorry.

            Millions of AMERICANS live in cities, without yards, so saying “most people want a yard” is a bit presumptuous.

            And it’s a discussion board. You butt in.

          • Josh S

            I’m not sure, Burger, that it is possible to “butt in” in an online discussion thread.

            And doodly didn’t say anything about “around the world.” Plenty of families living in apartments here in the good ‘ole U.S of A.

          • Westover

            Millions and millions of guys DO NOT have a Ferrari, but I don’t think it would be presumptuous to say that most guys would be very happy to have a garage with one in it. Billions of guys are not banging Pippa Middleton, but it would probably not be presumptuous to say most who have seen her picture have at least thought it would be nice to have her on their own. Sure there are millions living in apartments, but I don’t think it would be presumptuous to think most would rather have a nice house with a large yard, in the city or not, even if they are willing to stay in the apartment due to financial restraints or the need to be close to office.

          • JamesE

            He is going to raise 5 children in a 1 bedroom and everyone will hate him, TOUGH.

          • danielobvt

            5?! Hardly…….
            But for 2 children why do you think I need a 3 bedroom? I shared a bedroom with my brother in my parents SFH for most of my childhood.
            Sorry I don’t buy into your Middle American belief that everyone needs a yard and huge amounts of personal space…

          • doodly

            The McMansions have become so ridiculous that they’re making up silly names for the superfluous rooms.

      • R. Griffon

        I’d beg to differ as I’ve got 2 small kids and something even better than a yard – several big yards within easy walking distance that somebody else maintains for us to use anytime we like. And with much more elaborate play fixtures than I could ever afford myself (or have the space for).

        Why pay the ultra-high premium for a private yard with so many great playgrounds around here for free?

        • Make no mistake, you are paying for them. And you are sharing them with other germ-infested kids, dogs, homeless, etc. Call it what you want (on either side of the issue) but it is what urban living is about vs. rural or suburban.

          • R.Griffon

            I never said I wasn’t paying for it. In fact, you’re paying for it either way. This way I’m just getting my money’s worth (and then some). Germs don’t do well in the sun, my kids love dogs, and so far no homeless at the playgrounds. So I’m good.

        • stevis

          Yep. I can introduce my little girl to our pool–would never afford one on our own, and there are several parks withing walking distance. None of which I waste valuable daddy-daughter time mowing.

          I grew up with a yard in small town Michigan, so figuring out how to let her have the same “free range” advantages I had will be a challenge, to be sure. Then again, I didn’t have a zoo, the Smithsonians, etc.

        • Burger

          I’m pretty sure you don’t know what you are talking about.

          Do you really have to ask? I can send my kids out into my yard to play if I have to do something in the house or in the yard.

          Can’t really send a 4 year old off to the park 2-3 blocks away, can I now.

          I’m not arguing with your view of what is a correct way to raise your kids but having a yard allows me to enjoy both my yard and the park.

          • R.Griffon

            > I’m pretty sure you don’t know what you are talking about.
            > …
            > I’m not arguing with your view of what is a correct way to raise your kids…

            So which is it?

    • I was able to walk on my business ventures in Birmingham easily. When I vacationed on the shore, I took a bike almost everywhere.

      DC has great culture, arts, and concerts. The “larger” ‘Bama cities have a lower version of it. DC doesn’t have quite the same feel as the Gulf shore though. Ocean City isn’t even close. I guess it all depends what you are looking for. I wouldn’t have thrown DC under the bus if I were them, and I’d have not blindly criticized ‘Bama either.

    • News Flash

      Atlanta is right up the road from Huntsville. As is New Orleans. No, they don’t have a five-minute drive to see the Kirov Ballet at the JFKCPA, but one has to gauge how much that is worth.

      If Huntsville is a quasi-secular island of progressivism full of PhDs, then for all I know, it may be a great place to live.

      OTOH, they have tornadoes.

      • Josh S

        BTW, NF is ODing on the abbreviations. IMHO. JFKCPA? WTF?!?

        • News Flash

          Come on. Think about it. Ballet? JFK? Fine–I will type it out for you: John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

  • Justin Russo

    At one point Huntsville had (and they may still have) the greatest number of PhDs per capita of any US city

    Seems to me there are a number of places that make this claim: Los Alamos, Research Triangle, Bethesda

    I wonder what the truth is.

  • Vinh An Nguyen

    If you get BRACed to Alabama, do you get to keep your DC salary?

    • Arlwhenever

      Current locality pay difference between DC area and Huntville is about 6.7 percent.

      • PhilL

        Wow, that is not really that much. I bet their cost-of-living is way lower, too.

      • Here’s something crazy:

        Locality pay for HOUSTON is higher than for DC!

        28.71% vs. 24.22%.


        Houston is cheap to live in. WTF?!?

        • Westover

          They need something to entice folks to go live in Houston….

  • Andy

    I moved out of Arlington and the DC area back in the mid 90’s and lived in the suburbs of Atlanta for five years. I hated every minute of those five years. I left a good job in Atlanta to move back to Arlington as soon as I could. Suburban living is the worst.

    • Former ATLer

      I used to live in Altanta too. Pretty sure I remember a wide variety of housing–apts, condos, SFH–within the Perimeter. Of course, if you live there and work in Marietta, no fun indeed.

    • david

      Arlington is the suburbs.

      • Justin Russo

        No, Ashburn is the suburbs.

  • Me

    In other news, some other random person a thousand miles away criticized Arlington for high cost of living. Highlights at ten.

  • Ryan

    Umm, these people are personal friends of mine. And their condo was in Alexandria not Arlington. So that is a misquote. They are both from southern towns/small cities originally and Huntsville is a good fit for their family. We miss them but they are very happy there.

    • Juanita de Talmas

      Alexandria?! In that case, retract everything above.


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