Archive for the 'real estate' Category



The abandoned neighborhood of the week

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Where Detroit ends…

Can you tell which side of the map is Detroit and which side is Grosse Pointe?


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The abandoned house of the week, and G.M. finally files for bankruptcy

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The big news out of Detroit this week is G.M.’s bankruptcy filing. The fourth largest bankruptcy in U.S. history was a long time coming. There’s already plenty of analysis on the reasons for G.M.’s failure available for reading. Most of the reasons have been far too easy to figure out. For most of us, cars are like many other parts of our lives. They are necessary, expensive, and we just want them to work. For the vast majority of us, cars have become simply another commodity. P.J. O’Rourke feels that the romanticism related to automobiles is gone; that Americans have fallen out of love with cars because of “bureaucrats, bad taste and busybodies”. Apparently cars aren’t “sexy” enough anymore. Has he seen or driven a Corvette, Viper, or GT? Unfortunately it’s an over simplified analysis by someone who grew up in the Big Three’s glory days of fins, muscle cars, drag racing, cruising, drive-ins, and 427 big block’s.

A more thoughtful analysis would be something along the lines of this article in USA Today. G.M. isn’t headed for bankruptcy because Americans don’t love cars. G.M. is headed for bankruptcy because they failed to position themselves for the future. Toyota and Honda haven’t been so successful because they make muscle cars, or sports cars of any kind, for that matter. They have been successful because they’ve made reliable, efficient, and price competitive cars that we wanted to buy. Consumer’s desires and needs change. Failure to supply your customer with what they want or need, at a price that is competitive with the rest of the market, is an indication of bad management.

Meanwhile, Detroit, and along with it Michigan, continues on a downward trajectory. Besides G.M.’s, there have been over 137,000 personal and business bankruptcies in Michigan over the past three years. The layoffs and plant closings resulting from the big G.M. bankruptcy will have a devastating effect on communities such as Pontiac and Orion, Michigan, both on the list of of planned closures.

Additionally, The One D Scorecard came out, and one can guess how Detroit did. Even though the Free Press says, “Detroit area receives a mixed report in survey,” the results were hardly mixed. Years of ignoring glaring problems, and dysfunction, by the industry, our political leaders, and much of the general population, have lead to the problems Detroit, Michigan, and the U.S. auto industry face today.

The abandoned house of the week

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The abandoned house of the week…cheap houses, a smoking ban, and mass transit?

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I’ve just begun using Twitter. I’m really just kind of eavesdropping on other peoples conversations, or at least parts of conversations. According to my eavesdropping the hot topic regarding Detroit is cheap houses. With NPR, Anderson Cooper, The New York Times, CNN, and other news organizations reporting that houses are selling for as low as $1, artists are buying up neighborhoods, foreigners¬† are snapping up real estate for investment, and Detroit’s rebirth is right around the corner, it seems everyone wants to buy a house in Detroit.

Some of the Tweets I saw on the topic of cheap houses in Detroit included:

“They just said on NPR that you can buy a slightly run down house in Detroit for 100 bucks.”

“foreign investors flocking to detroit for cheap houses. me want in!”

“We should all move to Detroit. $100 houses. We could live off our savings for years.”

“Are you buying a house in Detroit? Are the $8000 houses habitable, and in safe neighborhoods?”

“I think I am going to start investing in Detroit too, and so should you. Houses for $12K, thats crazy!”

A few of the articles really make it sound like a great opportunity to get in on a creative revolution in the Motor City, but if you read more than a few of the articles, and listen to some of the reports, you quickly learn what most Metro Detroiters already know; that it’s not so simple.

Listening to the NPR report you find out that even as some are moving in to a neighborhood, others are desperate to get out. Even the two artists, who are the story’s focus, admit their house has been broken into three times, and one of them has been threatened.¬† Detroit’s poverty rate is about as high as it gets in the developed world, the unemployment rate is above 20%, and the crime rates are equally high. Furthermore getting a house up to code in Detroit is a test of anyone’s commitment, and insuring that house, and your car (which can’t get by without in Detroit)is ridiculously expensive.

And then of course there’s Detroit’s wonderful city services. Will your garbage get picked up? How long will it take to get power back after desperate thieves steal the transformer off the pole down the street? What happens if you’re robbed, shot, or otherwise injure…how long will it take to get police (when I was trapped by a pack of wild dogs, the police operator told me it would be a couple of hours), or EMS to arrive? Where do you go for groceries? Kids? …forget it.

I’d love to go down, and buy a cheap place, fix it up, and be a part of a renaissance, but unless a couple hundred of my friends decide to do the same thing, at the same time, I’m likely putting myself, and my family in a bad situation. Is it worth it to be an urban pioneer with all of the risks involved, simply to get dirt cheap housing? The thousands that leave Detroit each year would say no. Many have struggled for years, to make the situation workable, and most have failed. Not all of the areas in Detroit are not bad, but you won’t find $500 houses in those areas. The prices in the nicer areas aren’t that high compared to other urban areas in the U.S., but they’re much higher than the prices thrown around in the recent reports.

I hope this trend continues, and some creative oases arise from the urban rubble of Detroit. I feel there are some opportunities for some special people, and maybe someday, some areas will actually attract average people who don’t want to be burglarized on a regular basis, who don’t want to pay several thousand dollars per year for auto insurance, who don’t want to have to drive back out to the suburbs for groceries, and who actually want to feel somewhat safe in their homes.

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Warning: From this point down, large amounts of sarcasm will be used.

Other topics being mentioned on Twitter include Metro Detroit mass transit, and another attempt at passing a smoking ban in bars and restaurants. Mass transit is still a ways away from reality in Metro Detroit, but at least our regional politicians are getting on board. Less than eight years ago, L. Brookes Patterson, stated on Michigan Public Radio, that “we can’t afford to invest a dime in an experiment like mass transit.” Apparently after eight long years of testing around the world, he’s concluded that mass transit is no longer experimental. Whew…glad that’s been determined. Fortunately our leaders are only about 40 years late on making a decision that the are needs a comprehensive transit system. Maybe if they get it running in another 15 years, we can really attract that younger, highly educated demographic we’re looking for.

And bar and restaurant owners, against most widely available studies on the subject, are dead set against joining the rest of the country in banning smoking indoors in public eating and drinking establishments. Obviously the ban has been detrimental to the local economies in New York, California, Italy, Chicago, and many other major cities, and countries around the world. In fact the ban is probably the cause of this world wide recession. Smokers have just stopped going to bars and restaurants. Good thing Michigan dodged that bullet.

Abandoned, burned out, house in Detroit, Michigan

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Detroit’s abandoned house of the week

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Even more abandoned houses!

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The direction Detroit needs to go…

This is the kind of thing Detroit, and Michigan, needs to do. We need less of the status quo, and more of anything different…

And typical of the commenters on the Detroit Free Press site, many state how they feel that reusing shipping containers for housing is really stupid, because:

  1. They are smarter than everyone else…
  2. They know all about reusing things in manners they weren’t originally intended…
  3. Architects and engineers don’t really know what they’re talking about, and your average joe knows how it really should be done…
  4. Metro Detroit is so much better than those “other places” where they do dumb things like make housing out of shipping containers…
  5. Like to poo poo anything beyond the status quo…
  6. Like the status quo…

*All but the last two are very sarcastic comments.

Shipping containers could become condos…
Detroit condo project puts discarded containers to use
Container City

Abandoned house of the day…

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