Thursday, February 26, 2009

America's Emptiest Cities


I have an insane backlog of stuff I want to talk about, so forgive me for posting some older news items over the next few days. This recent Forbes article about America's Emptiest Cities obviously caught my eye and it contains some fascinating data. Check out this Yahoo article summary, if you don't feel like going through the annoying slideshow. Looking at apartment and home vacancy rates, it details the cities that are being hit the hardest by the real estate bubble bursting and subsequent economic depression.

What interests me is what the type of cities that seem to be suffering the most, especially the new, Western/Southwester/Southern cities that everyone saw as the future. Cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix have been annexing land and adding people at a prodigious rate and it was assumed that they were the future great cities. Not so fast, it would seem. I've been talking a lot about how different I think New York City will be in 5 years, as we go through this economic depression. But, the effect on these boom cities might be even more interesting and pronounced, as they were built so much on the real estate bubble that it's hard to tell just how many people the cities will lose. We are no where near the bottom of this real estate market, I think there is far more pain ahead. Does Las Vegas have much else going for it? What happens when the casinos start suffering because of the lack of discretionary income for most people? Does the city have any real support systems for those people, like older, East Coast cities have built up over the decades? For that matter, do all of these newcomers to these Sun Belt and Southern cities have any real connection to their new homes? Will they stick around? For all of the talk about Philly's decline, it has held steady over the past decade, despite being considered a relic for years.

It'll be interesting to see the Census list that comes out in a few years and who stands in the top 5 when all is said and done. Always bet on the tortoise.

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