Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Cold Hard Look At Braddock

I know I have given the town of Braddock a lot of good press, it still has some wonderful buildings, a good location, tons of history and a tiny number of very committed backers. But Null Space did us the favor of posting the cold data on Braddock's home price numbers.

2007: # of sales = 46, median price = $15K
2008: # of sales = 39, median price = $8K

39 sales in 2008 with an average sale price of $8,000 !

He also gives the brutal math on the cost of just maintaining utilities as the area depopulates.

"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."

Obviously, I see some value in the place, perhaps as a highly affordable creative community which is something sorely needed in America. But, one has to admit that as each year passes, there is less and less of Braddock to save.

1 comment:

marc v. said...

this is exactly the kind of scenario that I think we are going to see a lot more of in the coming years in "rustbelt" cities across America.
In my opinion, there are going to be serious revolutions (no, not the Bolshevik kind...) with regard to neighborhoods like Braddock and how they operate, function, are perceived, draw people away from and to, how they adjust with a drastically different tax base, etc.
Call me some kind of neo-eco-hippy but I see this as THE beginning of the kind of urban hub neighborhood revitalization (the likes of which haven't been seen since prior to WWII and even urbanization due to Industrialization) that will offer
THE chance to re-define WHAT a neighborhood is, who lives there, how they live there, and how they live there WITH OTHER PEOPLE.
From an ecological design perspective, this is a chance to re-invent ways that building and energy efficiency are perceived (A majority of energy goes to keeping energy inefficient structures warm and the hot air bleeding right out of the joint! just like a majority of gas in an automobile goes to moving tires under all those inefficient tons of weight).
What I'd like to see - and I'm already seeing the new shoots of it in Braddock - is a more progressive idea that we have to move beyond traditional construction methods, ways of existing and co-existing. We need to take advantage of geo-thermal, passive solar (yes, solar works here - contrary to what anyone will tell you), composting toilets, rainwater retention and filtration, cob and straw bale construction, and a commitment from those people who are interested in using the opportunity of the gradual decay and eventual collapse of the inefficient home as a perfect excuse to start doing things differently. We have to understand that with a multitude of excess housing and a shrinking population, many homes are already, and within the next 10 years, candidates for demo. I say -water company doesn't want to provide water - fuck em. get it from somewhere else and do it better in the process.
This is all predicated on the idea that people have to understand that all of this will take work and will be a different way of life at first, but that it makes so much sense for so many reasons.
Let's go off the grid right in the middle of the city, and see what happens, and Braddock is JUST the place to do it.