Friday, August 3, 2012

Zombie neighborhoods

A different name for the zombie neighborhoods considered in this Atlantic Cities piece by Richard Florida would be neighborhoods in which houses have negative prices.

I agree with Florida that bulldozing the houses is not a solution except in the sense that covering a skin condition with makeup is a solution. I disagree with him about community activism being the primary solution. Surely it can't hurt, but these neighborhoods are not rich with educated people who can write grant applications or with the sort of people who can lead major organizational efforts. Those people have moved out.

It seems to me that the main reason houses in, say, Detroit, sometimes have negative prices is government failure. The houses would have positive value in functioning jurisdictions, sometimes substantial positive value. The reason they lack positive value is that they are located in places where public goods, most particularly safety in person and property, but also public utilities and schools, are insufficiently provided. That is a problem that won't be solved by the wanton destruction of physical capital that could be valuable in other states of the world.

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