Speaking of real estate - Braddock
2007: # of sales = 46, median price = $15K
2008: # of sales = 39, median price = $8K
Again, there is no zero missing there. That is $8,000. So five properties you could have if you were willing to trade in your Hummer. If it were just a few properties I would write it off as a small number anomaly, but 39 sales is not an exception. Half sold for less than that. That you can get price depreciation despite starting from $15K/property is beyond comprehension in most of the western world. I once calculated that property vacancy in Braddock was 2nd highest in the state other than for Centralia which is the municipality the state evacuated due to a mine fire decades ago.
I do hate focusing on Braddock which at this point is not responsible for its own situation any longer. Braddock depopulated for a whole lot of reasons and basically we let it happen and continue to leave it as it is. The whole topic of redevelopment in the Mon Valley has been talked about for decades, yet some of the core problems are as intractable now as they were ever in the past.
So here is a story. About a decade ago I was in Germany for a conference. There was a tour looking at redevelopment efforts in the Ruhr Valley which like us once had a concentration of steel plants that have closed. We were tooling around as part of this tour in a town that was essentially Braddock in that it was in the shadows of a former steel plant that had shuttered. The thing is, it was a very nice place it seemed to me. Good housing stock and looked like a very livable place. I made a comment to the effect that the Germans don't let things like Braddock happen. I wasn't making a statement about any person or policy at all. A certain former politician in town was with us heard the comment and sort of teed off on me a bit over how much progress had been made and that the public and in particular the media didn't appreciate that Braddock had turned the corner. If I was less kind you could say it was kind of delusion not only back then, but to this day. I was just in Braddock last week and I would make the same statement today. In some ways it's a lot worse than a decade ago. Something the real estate price trend would support.
Why is it so hard to fix Braddock? Even being someone who has looked at the issue for a long time, just the other day I learned something new about how intractable the situation is there. I was talking with someone who lived in Braddock for over 50 years until very recently. Born and raised in Braddock and probably would have lived there longer if they could.. but it just became impossible for them to stay. Why did they have to leave? First their immediate neighbors moved out. They could live with that. Then the plumbing from the neighbors house was stolen, copper being pretty valuable until lately. Still, that wasn't a problem itself, but it turns out that the water was supplied collectively to a group of houses. The water meter being in the house which had it's plumbing mined. No plumbing there meant no water for the group of houses. Still, even that didn't force them to leave, they really were going to stay and pay to have some plastic plumbing put back into the vacant neighboring house. But since the house with the meter was unoccupied, the water company would not restart service to what was essentially a vacant and abandoned house. Makes sense sort of... but it meant that the occupied houses next door couldn't get water. The water company's cost of putting in a new water line and meter was far too exorbitant an investment, probably several orders of magnitude more than the house was worth to begin with so that wasn't an option. No water, you pretty much have to move out. If you can't keep folks like that who very much want to stay, what hope is there of rebuilding population there. In the end the house was sold for a dollar to a 'redeveloper' who mostly stripped out the remaining plumbing and other semi-valuable pieces of the property. Probably had a decent return on the $1. Just unbelievable, and seriously not something that is allowed to happen elsewhere in the developed world.