Detroit Facts

November 26th, 2009  |  Published in Cities, Social Science  |  1 Comment

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:

Greenwich village studio apartment

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:

Pontiac Silverdome

That's right, it's the Silverdome. Needless to say, this does not augur well for the future of Detroit. Nor does 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.


  1. Abe says:

    February 28th, 2010 at 2:19 pm (#)

    Technically, the Silverdome is in Pontiac — an outer-ring suburb / satellite city of 60,000, about 45 minutes from downtown Detroit, second only to Flint in post-industrial decay. As bad as Detroit’s problems are, Pontiac’s may be worse. It was recently placed in receivership by the state of Michigan. So the sorry state of Pontiac proper likely contributed to the low sale price.,+MI&sll=42.638884,-83.291302&sspn=0.066297,0.154324&g=Pontiac,+MI&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Pontiac,+Oakland,+Michigan&ll=42.540939,-83.123932&spn=0.527161,1.234589&z=10

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