April Fools Is Early This Year?

The UK Daily Telegraph appears to believe that US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive

Dozens of US cities may have entire neighbourhoods bulldozed as part of drastic “shrink to survive” proposals being considered by the Obama administration to tackle economic decline.

The government looking at expanding a pioneering scheme in Flint, one of the poorest US cities, which involves razing entire districts and returning the land to nature.

Local politicians believe the city must contract by as much as 40 per cent, concentrating the dwindling population and local services into a more viable area.

Not only will this not happen (outside of Flint, anyway), it's probably backwards as increasing gas prices will drive people into city centers for shorter commutes. Only way this happens if if people instead head for exurban centers because the cities are too decrepit. But even so, there's no way the media-savvy Obama administration will sign on to a plan with such lousy optics.

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3 Responses to April Fools Is Early This Year?

  1. The quote and story seem to indicate that cities need to shrink for the very reason that increasing gas prices (and mass foreclosures, and shrinking job markets, etc.) are driving people into the urban centers: everyone’s bundled up in a smaller space, leaving vast swathes of the city limits thin on taxpayers but rich in expensive-to-maintain infrastructure and easy-to-hide-illegal-businesses-in superstructure. Spread out populations are not as easy to serve centrally, and one solution may be to divide into sectors and levels of service, combined with incentives to gather downtown and huddle against the economic cold.

    And I think that when cities become decrepit and gas becomes expensive, most people move to some other, more successful urban center (perhaps one that did not make the modest, not-at-all-universal list of 50 which the program is working from), rather than escaping to the exurbanite countryside. That’s certainly what happened to the committed professionals from Baltimore and Philly I’ve met in the course of my work in DC.

  2. LACJ says:

    This article is basically correct, perhaps a bit alarmist at best.

    Dozens of major cities *are* going to contract as a result of this serious downturn, absolutely.

    There was already weakness in a lot of real estate markets in areas like Buffalo, Erie, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, and on through those regions. This economic crisis is just hastening the process.

    Flint, Detroit of course. Grand Rapids. Easily three more ‘major’ cities in Michigan. The on to Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky…you say I need a dozen? Come on, provide a challenge at least.

    This is why I advocate court-ordered cramdown mortgage modification.

  3. Cathy says:

    A lot of cities effectively include their own suburbs within their own boundaries. I think the idea is to bulldoze the outer areas and consolidate development within the interior ones, thus making the cities more cost-effective to run.

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