The most densely populated area in the continental US is ..

Los Angeles

The urbanized area in and around Los Angeles has become the most densely populated place in the continental United States, according to the Census Bureau. Its density is 25 percent higher than that of New York, twice that of Washington and four times that of Atlanta, as measured by residents per square mile of urban land.

Open space in the West has always seemed endless. But deserts, mountains, huge tracts of federally owned land and a pervasive lack of water make much of the region unlivable. As such, it has remained the most rural part of the country in terms of land use while becoming the most densely urban in terms of where people live.

Sometime around the early 1980s, greater Los Angeles collided with these unforgiving restraints.

So that explains why L.A. freeways are so clogged. We have the highest  population density in the country – and it gets more clogged every month. This article makes the crucial point, one I’ve not seen elsewhere, that the vast empty spaces here are mostly unusable, with lack of water being a major reason. It also details how some pay $750,000 for townhouses jammed seven to an acre while immigrant poor live nine to an apartment, exploited by greedy landlords.

But even those well off enough to buy a house have too much debt.

50% of income going to the mortgage?

Many California households have stretched their finances to dangerous lengths by committing 50 percent or more of their monthly income to buy homes that would otherwise be unaffordable.

52 percent of buyers who purchased homes in the state in the past two years are spending more than 30 percent of their income long considered the normal percentage to pay the mortgage. And one-fifth of them are spending more than 50 percent of their income.

Many of them, no doubt, have risky mortgages; variable rate, interest-only, or something equally lunatic. When (not if, when) interest rates go back up and/or the balloon payment comes, too many will be unable to make the payments.

L.A. seems like a bubble about to pop. When people can’t afford rent or the mortgage, when they spend endless frustrating hours on the freeways, well, it’s like watching a car wreck happen in slow motion.