relocalization is coming

According to a report issued today, home prices are dropping fastest in areas with long commutes. We all knew it was coming. It was inevitable. The exurbs are dying. Without cheap oil, they aren’t tenable. I feel sorry for the people who invested in properties so far from urban areas with the expectation that they’d always be able to afford their hour-long commutes, but I think when everything is said and done it will be a positive thing for society. As people gravitate back toward urban centers, and reign in their travel, I have to think that genuine communities will rebound. I’m typically pretty cynical when it comes to our chances of navigating what Kunstler calls The Long Emergency, but part of me thinks that maybe it will be for the best. Maybe society won’t fall apart when the oil stops. Maybe it will get better.

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  1. egpenet
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    Strictly anecdotal word from Real Estate peronnel in the county, plus an informal survey among neighbors in the Riverside Neighborhood Association indicates that propety values have held better in the HDC than in neighboring hoods.

    I have long maintained that the HDC promotes property valuations even through periods of decline. Agents have told me that “I’d rather represent a home in the HDC.”

    No doubt that our City is suffering at the moment. Homes in the HDC, including my own, have declined in assessed value, but not nearly as much as in other neighborhoods. My point here is that Ypsilanti should serio7sly consider expanding the HDC ordinance into their neighborhoods to help stabilize and support ownership commitment to property preservation and maintenace.


  2. thirdcity
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Much inline with Mark’s note regarding gravitating inward to the city, we sold a new home and considerable acreage to be more centrally located.

    While our existing home is shown on plat maps as far back as the 1850s, I learned the township destroyed records older than seven years back in the 1990’s (for properties located outside the Historic District). Similar stories are told of court records. I have to question the city’s commitment to preservation after hearing this.

    For someone who loves history, architecture, and the character that comes with an older home, that was just painful to hear. And we’re located just outside the city.

    So, yes egpenet, I second your motion to expand the HDC and ownership commitment to property preservation. We have many beautiful homes that are located in the community without historic designation.

  3. Posted April 22, 2008 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Yes, let’s have MORE government influence in real estate in Ypsilanti. Since they did such a great job in their other real estate pursuits, it only makes sense to invite more regulation. Hey, I have an idea — let’s all sell our houses to the city government! Maybe we can have a bake sale to raise the money. Or do a show! It’ll be fun, fun, FUN!!!!

    Seriously people, if the city tries to expand its powers one iota, i’m gonna end up in a turret on the top of my garage. I swear. I’m already rocking back and forth and humming that tune from “Platoon”.

    Stop trying to preserve everything and move on, for the luvogod. This idea that Mark brings up of the exurbs dying could, indeed, be a boon for local real estate. But the minute the city crawls up homeowners’ butts and makes you fill out a form every time you want to change a lightbulb, we’re going to lose buyers. Preserve whatever you want, but stop trying to force everybody else to do it, too. A mix of old and new is great.

    FOR THE LAST TIME: GOVERNMENT IS NOT THE ANSWER. If today’s trends hold true, then the market is smiling on us. Hell, it might shine out our collective ass. Let’s not give it away to city hall, eh?

  4. Arun
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    This is still a democracy last I checked, so government is us. No doubt we are our own worst enemies, but unregulated “free” markets come a close second.

    But I don’t care about that – has a very amusing review of Kunstler and his fellow environmental apocolytic-utopian comrades. You should check it out.

  5. Posted April 22, 2008 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    While many transit geeks think gas prices may eventually drive people back into cities, I think this story is premature.

    Houses near transit are holding their value better than those far from transit. In other words, people prefer to live in cities. It’s presumptuous to draw a connection from that to gas prices, during a period of much broader economic wackiness and demographic changes. There are factors at play that are probably more significant than a simple 10-20% change in gas prices…

    1) Areas near transit are more heavily dominated by renters than home-owners. The rental market is _somewhat_ decoupled from the owner-occupied housing market.

    2) People who live in dense cities have different types of jobs than those that live in suburban areas. How are city-folk jobs doing compared to suburban-folk jobs?

    3) First time homeowners today are people who weren’t alive during the ’67 riots. They’re not (as) scared of cities. Maybe they’d rather live their than in the suburbs.

    4) More single people and empty nesters = less need for suburban schools and lawns.

    5) What are the suburban vs. urban foreclosure rates? What percent of city people vs. suburban people have ARMs or are living on budgets that put them close to the edge of foreclosure?

    I’d be a lot more convinced of this theory if people were switching to small cars in larger numbers. I find it hard to believe that the housing market would reflect high gas prices to an equal or larger degree than the automotive market. An SUV owner could go out and trade in their Explorer and cut their fuel bill in half TODAY, without suffering through the months-long process of finding a new house.

  6. Glen S.
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    I saw an interesting article on the other day: “How Affordable is That Subdivision, Really?” that discusses a new interactive mapping tool aimed at illustrating some of the “true” costs of suburban/exurban living vs. some of the “hidden” savings that come from living in denser communities.

    You can read the article, and try the mapping tool at:

  7. egpenet
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    The HDC doesn’t ask you to fill out a form and pay a fee to change lightbulbs.

    BUT … THAT’S a great idea! The City NEEDS the money. We could also have forms and fees for other little things. Sure would add up!

    Seriously … a mix of old a new is exactly what we encourage.

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