The End of Sprawl?

A worker salvaging wood, wearing but shorts and sneakers around so many nails and pointy things. Homo Sapiens sapiens californica, a species known for its audacity… ©Nick Ut, Associated Press.

I’m used to seeing demolitions in the inner city, whether of historic housing or, occasionally, of newer homes that were constructed at too high a cost to satisfy an economically-distressed market. But this article is interesting in that it involves the demolition of brand new homes, and in Victorville, California, no less, a remote locale that forms about an hour and a half drive of a triangle between Los Angeles and Lancaster, California. (That’s LAN-cass-turr, not to be confused with my hometown or its similarly-pronounced counterpart in Ohio.) The bank claims that it would be too expensive to finish the homes and that they wouldn’t make the money back in the current market.

Driven by speculation, the housing market is the bubble that keeps on popping; the notion that it would be possible to squeeze an extra double-digit percentage of profit off each additional house sold drove up the cost of actually building and finishing these houses, if only marginally, to the point where it actually is cheaper to tear them down than to finish them and try and sell them. Never mind that selling them probably requires a mortgage, a financial instrument that is extremely hard to come by these days.

So, it won’t work– even with the high-speed rail planned to connect the thriving metropolis of Victorville to Las Vegas? Given the ongoing economic disaster of California, it’s perhaps not terribly surprising. Are you sure it’s too late for us to make an offer? We’ll come and pick up the reclaimed wood and use it to build a wine bar. I can see the placard now: “Salvaged from a Once-Great City…”

Nat Zorach

Nat M. Zorach, AICP is a city planner, community development professional, and MBA candidate at American University's Kogod School of Business, based in Detroit.

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