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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Tuesday, May 21

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Overwrought / July 28, 2005 11:16 AM

Overall, I'd say no.

I usually know what I'm getting myself into depending on where I am. Meaning, I'm never caught off guard.

The taxes are pretty high, which can be annoying.

But yeah, there are good places to live at reasonable rents, great places to eat that are affordable, and you can live a pretty decent lifestyle making less than $50K a year.

I haven't attempted to buy though and I hear that process is pretty hard (and getting harder).

Rudiger / July 28, 2005 11:21 AM

For a world class city, I would say that it is totally reasonable.

Kevin / July 28, 2005 11:42 AM

Damn right it is. If you own a home/condo, a car, have a kid, its incredibly over-priced. Its the little nickel & dime shit that kills me; a city sticker here, a permit there, and the prices seem to go up every year.

Pedro / July 28, 2005 11:42 AM

Chicago is way over-taxed. They've taxed us so much that they have to get creative in the ways that they squeeze money out of the populace. Think $125 parking tickets, ticketing bikers, city stickers, cook county purchase tax, etc...


Erica / July 28, 2005 11:45 AM

It's all relative. You wanna live in the 3rd largest city, you gonna pay. You want a big house, big yard, cheap taxes, etc., move to Huntley or something (nothing against Huntely, I'm just saying).
And I've gotten used to all the hidden costs of living here from over-the-top ticketing to the gazillion extra taxes (now that I'm a homeowner and all) and the extreme mark-ups on food and drink.
Further, I know a buttload of artist types that are surviving on a shoestring budget and having the time of their life here in Chicago. It can be done.

Finally, Chicago is only insanely expensive if you live in the popular neighborhoods where parking sucks and real estate is at a premium. It's only expensive if you eat and drink at the fancy places; if you drive or take cabs everywhere; if you shop at the fancy boutiques, etc. In my opinion, Chicago is all about what you can do cheap or free and I've discovered tons of cool shit to do on a small budget and there is a bunch I don't know about.

Overwrought: Buying is not hard at all unless you are a)unsure what you want or b)have a partner that can't agree with what you want or doesn't know what he/she wants. It can also be hard if you're unemployed or broke, but people still do it every day.

Also, I know a lot of people who are afraid to look outside of the hip/expensive 'hoods for their first home. My husband and I found an amazing place just northwest of Logan Square) right off the Kennedy and CTA blueline stop for under $200,000. It was a super painless process. Great neighbors/hood, great location.

Pedro / July 28, 2005 11:46 AM

... and the f'ing trains don't even run on time

Erica / July 28, 2005 11:55 AM

Pedro -- why do you live here? I'm not being shitty, I'm just wondering. Death, taxes and the CTA never running on time all the time.

Kevin / July 28, 2005 11:59 AM

It's all relative. You wanna live in the 3rd largest city, you gonna pay. You want a big house, big yard, cheap taxes, etc., move to Huntley or something (nothing against Huntely, I'm just saying).

Um. yeah? I believe the original question was "Is CHICAGO overpriced?" I could care less about Huntley. If you've lived here for any length of time and had to pay for schools, taxes, permits, tickets, etc., you know that the inflation rate on such things has far outstripped reality. I think its more deeply rooted at a State level. Even State services have not been immune to unreal inflation rates. If I were single and pulling in the same coin I am now, I'd be living high off the hog. Ah the good old days!

Kevin / July 28, 2005 12:03 PM

P.S. If you can find me a father or mother or both who will state, with no hesitation: "I believe Chicago's tax rates and cost of living to be most reasonable", I'll eat every word I say (Bridgeport doesn't count).

waleeta / July 28, 2005 12:09 PM

I used to think so, until I moved to DC. My crappy one bedroom in a sh*t part of town is $1000/month.

So comparatively, no. I can't wait to move back. But the city does find ways to get you - overtaxed, ridiculous tickets and fines... but overall I could live there more easily than most other cities.

Carl / July 28, 2005 12:46 PM

Hell yes its overpiced! And Hell no its overpriced! Just depends on which side of town you decide to live on. Beatiful homes in Beverly/MP can be had for under $275K all day long with taxes in the $2500 yr range while a similar home in Sauganash or Jefferson Park. (with access to suburbs to buy staples such as gas food keeps in-city prices low due to competition) would cost you double all the way around. Same comparison works if you compare the south loop to River North

wackpuma / July 28, 2005 12:49 PM

Chicago is deffinially not overpriced for the size of the city. For a large urban environment with all the entertainment, recreational, puclic transportation amentities(yes, I know that some think that the cta is worse then hell, whatever), it is really cheap. I have lived in 700/month apartments in lincoln square and 500/month apartments in wickerpark. You can get even cheaper in less popular neighborhoods. Let's see you do that in other east/west coast big cities. I find that most poeple don't have enough money because they eat out way too much, and buy to much stuff like cd's and clothes.

Christy / July 28, 2005 12:53 PM

It's all relative; but for a city that offers among the best in the world in art, music, theatre, parks, architecture, neighborhoods, film, dining, festivals, etc., it is relatively affordable.

However, it is also extremely segregated. So some areas are overpriced, some moderate and affordable, some filled with low-priced housing. And each of those areas tends to have a corresponding amount of public and cultural offerings. Thus some of the most desirable areas to live are overpriced for too many people.

JP / July 28, 2005 1:00 PM

I will have to ask my Sugar Daddy. He takes care of all my bills but I haven't heard him complaining.

Aliota / July 28, 2005 1:15 PM

The city that works works because the people are willing to pay the price. Those who don't are free to leave, and those who can't are removed.

The thing that seperates Chicago from Detroit is the extra 20% Chicago extorts from you in 'taxes' and 'fees' to maintain the corruption level so that stuff can get done.

This is Chicago's dirty little secret. You can have your beautiful $750,000 condo, but when 'the man' needs more money, you *must* bend over.

I wonder what Chicago is going to be like in 10 - 15 years. Will this last? Or will the city become unlivable again?

Michelle / July 28, 2005 1:19 PM

Kevin, I'm a mother, live in a popular northside neighborhood, and I don't think Chicago is overpriced. Is it expensive and are the taxes high compared to Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Indianapolis and other midwestern cities? Yes, but you get what you pay for. And no, my hubby and I don't earn huge bucks. We just happen to eat at cheap ethnic restaurants, go to Grant Park concerts, ride our bikes or take the CTA, and shop at H&M to keep costs down.

CB / July 28, 2005 1:26 PM

The increased tax situation in this city is indeed Woolworth's.... nickel and dime crap.

If someone is going to spend twenty grand on a new car, it would make sense to save around $100-$200 by driving outside of Chicago to buy it - provided that doing so would avert the city's sales tax. However, for your average soda, sofa or scooter, the net effect of the increased sales tax is pretty minimal on an individual basis.

However, the city's pockets are even more well-lined with fresh green as a result of the city's enitre population paying the extra nickel and dime for the increased sales tax.

geo / July 28, 2005 1:27 PM

Yes I think Chicago is up there for being over priced. While the rental market is soft right now - it's cheaper to rent (at least for me) than it would be to buy a place. Rent's are only one factor in affordability.

If you don't think Chicago is overpriced then why do civic groups like Metropolis 2020 constantly talk about the lack of affordable housing in the region? If you do your research you can find that a lot of people in the city spend more than 30% of their income on housing (some as high as 50%) - which is not an economically sound place to be.

On another front: unfortunately for a lot of Chicagoans, an affordable neighborhood is not necessarily a safe neighborhood. I know - I lived in Humboldt Park for five years in the late 90's.

Anthony / July 28, 2005 1:31 PM

I find it absurd that our sales tax is now more than NYC. Soon our mass transit will be, too. Paying more for an inferior system.

I'd bet a lot of the expense (ie. property taxes, CTA) trickles down to corruption at city hall.

Thanks Mayor Daley. Go plant somemo’ trees, and when you're done, can you explain how you can afford a penthouse across from Mil Park on the Mayor's salary? Oh, and don't mention to anybody that your last crony who got indicted for political patronage was your daddy’s photographer’s son.

leelah / July 28, 2005 1:35 PM

Chicago is certainly not as overpriced as, say, San Francisco (which comes in 6 to our 4 on that list).

I was able to buy a house all on my own on a teacher's salary. Granted, it was a HUD home, and I live on the far south side, and I have to drive 15 miles to go out with most of my friends who live on the north side, and then I end up with parking tickets or insane prices at parking garages... but I can afford to live here and to travel several times a year, so I can't complain TOO much.

chip zz / July 28, 2005 1:37 PM

If i gotta hear another young repulican bitch and moan about how the democratic party is corrupt I am going to barf!

Lacey / July 28, 2005 1:52 PM

How much you spend just depends on your priorities/interests/lifestyle. Adjust that just a little and you can basically make anything work.

I think Chicago has pricey real estate, but other than that, I think it's relatively affordable.

Jones / July 28, 2005 2:04 PM

The democratic party is corrupt. Here's a bucket.

itsallrelative / July 28, 2005 2:11 PM

Chicago is expensive because you can spend $230,000 on an 800-SF condo, and washing your $10.00 sandwich down with a beer at the Bad Dog Tavern will cost you $5.

Chicago is cheap because you and your roomate can spend $600 a month each to rent a 1200-SF palace with a back yard that's a ten-minute walk from Foster Beach, and washing your $4 burger down with a beer at the Edgewater Lounge will cost you $2 (for PBR) or $3 (for the Three Floyd's on special).


chip zz / July 28, 2005 2:12 PM

Sorry to get off subject gapers, but a subject other than affordabilty has just popped up. The democratic party in illinois is allegedly corrupt at this point, the repulican party has been indicted and found guilty of corruption.

duh / July 28, 2005 2:31 PM

if you want to live where everyone else wants to live, you'll have to pay for it. it's called supply and demand. the places where less people desire to live cost less simply because there are more recources to go around.

and, for everyone that desires the urban experience and still thinks chicago is expensive, try your hand at one of the country's other major cities. my friends from home (boston) are floored by the apartment i can afford on my less than lucrative income. having lived in both boston and chicago, i can say that chicago is much cheaper and simultaneously offers more.

you'll have reason to whine, no doubt. chicago will not be affordable for long. as the rest of the country's cities become more and more costly, people are discovering that you can get a lot in chicago for less. the amount of people that i know from the coasts is much greater now than when i moved here 4 years ago. more demand, less supply.

(tip: avoid lincoln park, a.k.a. "the urban suburb")

jessica (vit) / July 28, 2005 2:48 PM

yes and no. To rent it is not overpriced at all (I've friends in nyc and family in boston, so I know overpriced), but to buy any sort of property, it is hopelessly out of my reach (for someone whose salary in the mid30's and dealing with student debt) ... so I turn a deaf ear when I hear people talking about the real estate market as it is about as realistic a hope as buy property at this point as it would be to purchase a yacht, or to sprout wings and fly for that matter. However, the taxes are a bit out of control, if I felt they actually were doing some good and not lining my alderman's pocket, I'd be a bit less disgruntled about them, but until then, consider me disgruntled.

I live quite comfortably here because I'm okay with not having a car and living in a small (and cheap) unrehabbed space in the wicker park area, but I go without quite a bit to do so. That being said, I love this town (usually).

bobbs / July 28, 2005 3:08 PM

It's really easy to afford this city as a single girl in her early twenties who lives frugally and doesn't have debt. I have an awesome apartment and go to concerts regularly. I also have roommates, make my own lunch and dinner nearly every day, don't have a car, and shop off of sale racks exclusively. If I do eat out, it's often cheap Thai. I make around $25,000 per year, before taxes, but it really never feels like I have to stretch my money.
What I don't know is how single mothers or families working minimum wage jobs can do it, though. I break even most months, just taking care of myself. If I were one of those people, I'd definitely agree that Chicago is expensive.

steven / July 28, 2005 3:15 PM

To rent? Not really. To buy? I would say yes. But I could be wrong, and often am. I expect to pay too much wherever I go, that way I'm not ever surprised.

sky / July 28, 2005 3:23 PM

I recently went to DC to visit a friend who just recently got an apartment which he couldn't wait to show me. He told me he was paying about $1200 and I thought i was about to embark on the greatest apt ever....until I walked in to his apartment/my closet. So small, shitty view, etc. Made me love my shitty but huge apt with my personal rooftop deck.

However, this is coing on my 3rd year from college and I am scraping by....and by that I mean, avoiding bill paying so that I can go to dinner with friends. I do hate being broke, but I love my life here. And like my mother always says, as she sees another overdraft statement, YOU NEED TO SACRIFICE! BUDGET! LIVE ACCORDINGLY! And that's why I forgo getting contacts and wearing the same glasses from 8 years ago so I can go to dinner at Coast....again.

Anthony / July 28, 2005 3:45 PM

I think real estate here is still affordable. I paid around 275/sq ft for my place in the South Loop, and I love my place. Its a true loft on 9th and Wabash. I walk and bike everywhere, or take the CTA, and literally everything I need is within 4 blocks. The South Loop is great, WAY better then the 'urban suburb' I came from. (Nice assessment... whoever made that comment).

There are tons of free things to do. I have to SO IMPRESSED with our city this year. The Office of Cultural Events is doing a fantastic job. There's some props for the mayor.

I don't think Chicago is overpriced, and agree very much with the supply and demand comment. We generally see around 6%/year appreciation here, with is pretty moderate compared to the rest of the country, but not the insanity of LA/SD/SF/Boston, where they see 2x%/year. Our real estate values haven't declined in something like 20 years.

I hope you're right about more people moving here (whoever said that)! It would certainly make me smile in a few years!

leelah / July 28, 2005 4:10 PM

Ok, I change my answer since Chicago will start charging me $70 to take my two dogs to a free park in September. Damn you, expensive Chicago.

Kevin / July 28, 2005 4:25 PM

Yeah Leelah, I saw that in the paper and had a good laugh. Typical nickel & dime shit thats so prevalent here.

When I lived in New York City, it was so soul-crushingly unlivable that I ended up here in 1987. Stuff was affordable then even on my paltry $25,000/year. I could, if I wanted, live in a studio apt on Michigan or Presidential Towers. The possibilities seemed endless. As time has worn on however, that same sad feeling creeps in the pit of my stomach that I had in New York; the realization that Chicago "feels" like New York more & more each day.

Thank for representin' the Northsiiiiiide Michelle ;) (I'm up in the Lincoln Square area).

Steve / July 28, 2005 8:00 PM

Outside of the housing costs, I manage to make Chicago affordable. Costco helps; so does watching the ad papers. I'm old and unfashionable, so I'm cool with my whatever wear from Target and DSW.

The housing thing, yowza. I live within a stone's throw of the Irving Brown Line, and there are three brand-new houses on my block. I'm depressed that they are all >$1 million (and more than 4000 square feet), but somewhat heartened by the fact that none of them has sold in the half year or more that they've been on the market.

But unless a massive bubble burst happens, the gal and I will be heading to the 'burbs when it comes time to buy that house.

Pete / July 29, 2005 9:17 AM

Compared to NYC and most of California, no. Compared to Joliet, yes. Relocate my house to Lincoln Park and I'd be sitting on a $2 million nest egg.

ali / July 29, 2005 9:29 AM

Chicago is the most reasonably priced global city. If people want affordable housing they move to the far suburbs or cities like .. Dallas, Houston and Atlanta where $200,000 still goes very far.

Thurston / July 29, 2005 10:54 AM

I think Chicago is very affordable for a big city. I honestly think you can live much better on $50K/year in Chicago than you could on $100k/year in NYC, for example. I once considered moving to LA for a job, and I figured out that with taxes, cars, etc I needed an 18% raise just to nominally maintain the same standard of living. That said, there are a milion ways to lose money to the city government. Nonetheless, when I have friends in from out of town, they are always shocked at the apartments we have for the money. They also can't beleive that even in trendy neighborhoods like Lincoln or Wicker Park, a $2 beer can still be had. Try doing that on the Upper East Side or TriBecA!

e_five / July 29, 2005 11:40 AM

Just comparing rents or housing prices is deceptive.

1. You can get along in Chicago without a car.
2. Most apartments include heat, and air conditioning is only desperately needed maybe 15 days a year.
3. Chicago has an amazing array of cheap or free entertainment and cultural events.

I have a friend that pays $345 a month for a very large studio in Little Rock, Arkansas. In the winter his monthly heating bill is $85 a month, and in the summer his air conditioning is as much as $150 a month. Plus he has to have a car. And even worse, he has to live in Little Rock.

waleeta / July 29, 2005 12:42 PM

Please stop saying Chicago will look like New York soon - the whole reason I am returning from the East Coast is so I can escape these prices! Noooooooooo!

Erica / July 29, 2005 1:35 PM

Pete -- you live in Joliet? Big up. That's my hometown and one of the fastest-growing city in the U.S. Can you believe it? Joliet?

mike / July 29, 2005 2:01 PM

Depending on where you live, the private sphere of Chicago is not overpriced- bars, theater (wonderfully cheap if you like comedy),restaurants!, rent, even buying if you're not rich and white and plan to live in Lincoln Park, North Shore; however, if you're poor, Chicago is as painful and overpriced as New York or LA.

In the public sphere--yep, Chicago definitely seeps in there and screws you a little-- tickets, taxes, etc; but if that money is actually used as a base for good pubic works--better school, beautification of poorer neighborhoods, and community centers, then all of us who have a little money, (I.E. most people using computers on a regular basis and buying condos) should understand that we live in an interlocked community and those sacrifices are necessary. For those without money, it just really f'ing sucks.

Y A J / July 29, 2005 3:01 PM

Gotta agree with itsallrelative.

There are still piles of affordable housing off the orange line(newest & quickest).
We could be closer to many of our friends and old hangouts but then the very same bungalow would have cost us $100,000 to 200,000 more! And we wouldn't have double-lot yard.

Plenty of cheap places to eat. You couldn't pay $5 for a beer on the southside if you tried.

As you can tell I'm trying to lure more folks down - hey, the house next door is for sale!

itsallrelative / July 29, 2005 4:01 PM

A few years ago I had this idea of getting all of my friends to move to Archer Heights so we could all buy $150,000 single family homes and have a blast ... alas, it was not to be.

Cinnamon / July 29, 2005 4:03 PM

When I first came to Chicago from Columbus, I was surprised at how cheap food was. Mind you I was shopping at the little indie grocers nearby and not the box stores, but I was spending the same amount on food as I was spending in Ohio and I was eating fresh fruit and vegetables everyday, I was able to buy at a deli counter instead of eating peanut butter, and that was with the 2% food tax.

And people complain about the sales tax, but I've learned something since owning a business. The state takes 6.25% every time you buy something. The county gets 2.75%. When I pay sales tax every quarter, I write a check to the state who takes their share and gives the rest to the appropriate county/city. It's the trickle-down theory.

Emerson Dameron / July 29, 2005 4:33 PM

In some ways, no - it's pretty easy to get cheap food and beer anywhere outside the Loop, even in otherwise overpriced neighborhoods. It's not San Francisco. For a Midwestern city, though, it's insanely high on the housing bubble.

Attrill / July 29, 2005 5:57 PM

Compared to what? Chicago is THE city in the midwest, comparing it to cities like Indianapolis or St. Louis isn't right - I like both places, but you can't compare Chicago to cities that are a fraction of the size, with no real public transportation, and there is no way you can compare the number of restaurants and cultural attractions. In the same way, you also can't compare living in Chicago with living in cities like Atlanta, Houston, or Phoenix - your day to day life ends up being completely different in those cities.

You can only compare Chicago to cities that offer real city living - cities like New York, San Francisco, LA, Toronto, London, etc. On that scale, Chicago is affordable.

jk1 / July 29, 2005 7:22 PM

Let me put it this way.

Am I willing to pay what it would cost to live somewhat comfortably in New York or San Francisco on my present salary? Not a chance.

Am I happy to pay what I do for the privilege of living in Chicago? Most definitely.

Would I consider giving up all of the things that I value in Chicago to pay much less for certain things in a smaller city? Not for a moment!

Goo / August 16, 2005 5:04 PM

Anyone that thinks Chicago is overpriced is smoking drugs. I just moved here from D.C., and have almost perfectly cut my entire monthly expenditures in half while making the exact same salary. I cut my rent EXACTLY in half - from $1500/mo. to $750 - and am living in a way nicer neighborhood (Lincoln Square vs. DC's Adams Morgan), in an apartment that's twice the size, am paying almost exactly half for groceries, and so on.

Chicago may be expensive compared to whatever brokeass Indiana town you came from, but try living in a few other cities before complaining. People in Chicago have it GOOD.

CD / August 17, 2005 5:15 PM

I came from a village in MI and let me tell you my parents pay more for groceries than I do, pay as much for gas (really) and the housing market is overinflated there too. I managed to buy in Lakeview and yes, it hurts, but I live a block from the park, and everything I need is in walking distance. And it's clean and safe. It costs money, but it's worth it. Everyone agrees this is a world class city, if you want to see expensive go to London!

Forbes / October 20, 2005 3:20 PM

Yes, if you read Forbes. Where Chicago is ranked #4 in the most overpriced places in the country, up from #8 in 2004. I say, why buy when it's so much cheaper renting. Do you really want to buy in Chicago? Where the housing is expensive and the school is bad? When I do finally buy, it will be in the suburbs. Where I'll get twice the house for the same money, better schools and I'll feel safer with the kids running around. Renting in Chicago is the way to go...

RIL / August 29, 2006 11:13 PM

Chicago is not nerly as expensive as SF or NYC-but it is DEFINITELY expensive. One benefit is transportation and cheap grocery stores. Housing is insane even in crappy neighborhoods. There arent even a lot of neighborhoods I would want to live in because they suck. Houses on the west side are high and in the worst neighborhoods. There are few "safe" areas to live and no matter where you go you will not find a house for under 250,000 (if that)unless you want to live in Englewood or Back of the Yards. I moved to Denver for a better quality of life but groceries here are ASTRONOMICAL! My rent is cheap and there is free off street parking. The public transit is great In Chicago and you dont need a car. Having one wil cost you. There are rogue cops who write tickets without justification. You cannot fight City Hall. Taxes are outrageous-9.25% sales tax and thousands for real estate tax. I think my dad has to pay over 5,000 for a 1,600 sq ft house, no backyard and crappy public schools. Your tax dollars are being pocketed. Daley is corrupt. Unless its Evanston or Oak Park-Chicago suburbs really suck, and are divided.
I still love it there but Daley forced me out.

lola / September 5, 2006 7:33 PM

Just wondering...where do all these people who are purchasing homes w/ school-age kids send them to school in Chicago? Public? Private? Does anyone think that the public schools will get "better" in Chicago due to the influx of small town/suburbanites, or by the time that some of these non-school age kids turn school age, will these families/young couples move?

Wondering Teacher

carlos / November 3, 2006 8:35 AM

yeah its over priced for many! especially people like me! i grew up in wicker park/ukie village and i seen the "hood" change over for the better especially in the early '90's...the artist hipsters made it a better place but when the fucken suburbinte/transplant out of state yuppie wanna bees moved in they brought in starbucks and the rest of the corporate stores and their bullshit! then the housing prices went outta control! who the hell wants a fucken studio for 100o a month? now you have another lincoln park i give it 15-20 years when you fucken yuppie's start having kids and abandoned the city and move back to the rock you crawled under from!you parasite cracker ass yuppies take daley with you and his overtaxing corrupted mob ass! we tolerate you but dont like you for many reasons

carlos / November 3, 2006 8:41 AM

yeah its over priced for many! especially people like me! i grew up in wicker park/ukie village and i seen the "hood" change over for the better especially in the early '90's...the artist hipsters made it a better place but when the fucken suburbinte/transplant out of state yuppie wanna bees moved in they brought in starbucks and the rest of the corporate stores and their bullshit! then the housing prices went outta control! who the hell wants a fucken studio for 100o a month? now you have another lincoln park i give it 15-20 years when you fucken yuppie's start having kids and abandoned the city and move back to the rock you crawled under from!you parasite cracker ass yuppies take daley with you and his overtaxing corrupted mob ass!

out of money / April 27, 2009 2:12 PM

Chicago maybe overpriced but I think it way out there now with the Chicago Residents getting the tab. I just got a parking violation --I know, I should have parked there but I have my hazards lights on and was gone for 5-10 minutes picking up a freebie table for my work from somebody at Craiglist - and BLAM A $60 ticket on my van. What's the deal with that! PARKING METERS - that does not accept anything else except quarters and 15 minutes only! Argh, I love Chicago but the administration sucks!

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