Detroit facts are like the opposite of Chuck Norris facts. Each one portrays the city of Detroit as being unimaginably and implausibly screwed up and economically depressed. And unlike Chuck Norris facts, Detroit facts are true.
My favorite Detroit fact used to be: what’s the average price of a house in Detroit? I would ask people this, and almost no-one gets it. When I first started asking people this a couple of years ago, it was about $10,000. I think it’s less now–the median was reported as $7,500 earlier this year.
Now, however, I have a new favorite Detroit fact. In New York City, you can buy this for $600,000:
It’s a very nice little studio apartment in Greenwich village. On the other hand, for only $583,000 in Detroit, you could have bought this:
This plots gains in house prices with post-crash declines in different cities. Detroit’s housing prices didn’t really go up during the bubble, but they’ve come down with the crash. Which suggests that it’s the underlying weakness of the local economy that’s bringing down prices. I think urbanists need to be thinking a lot harder about what we can do about places like this–bringing them back to their former glory seems impossible, but to simply abandon the people who live there would be immoral. We need a strategy for, quite frankly, gradually letting these places shrink. See also Ed Glaeser on the case for letting Buffalo die.