A local couple, Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert, started the ball rolling. An artist and an architect, they recently became the proud owners of a one-bedroom house in East Detroit for just $1,900. Buying it wasn’t the craziest idea. The neighborhood is almost, sort of, half-decent. Yes, the occasional crack addict still commutes in from the suburbs but a large, stable Bangladeshi community has also been moving in.
So what did $1,900 buy? The run-down bungalow had already been stripped of its appliances and wiring by the city’s voracious scrappers. But for Mitch that only added to its appeal, because he now had the opportunity to renovate it with solar heating, solar electricity and low-cost, high-efficiency appliances.
Buying that first house had a snowball effect. Almost immediately, Mitch and Gina bought two adjacent lots for even less and, with the help of friends and local youngsters, dug in a garden. Then they bought the house next door for $500, reselling it to a pair of local artists for a $50 profit. When they heard about the $100 place down the street, they called their friends Jon and Sarah.
A fascinating story of community re-growth demonstrating the power of the green revolution. It also demonstrates the importance of cheap land and the creativity that is possible when such opportunities occur.
Readers of this site may be aware that all the community’s hard work will soon be taken away from them and profiteered by others who contributed very little to the community spirit. The ethos of community gardens, artist run spaces and the coolio grafitti that is probably already there will see land values start to rise.
Some say our home city benefited greatly from the early 90’s recession. Access to cheap land and the ease of late night liquor licencing saw Melbourne become a cultural hot spot back before we attracted the World’s Most Liveable city award (2002 & 2004) and it’s accompanying speculative curse.
In time the inevitable predators that are land speculators appear. They will be watching Mitch and Gina’s efforts in Detroit and silently buy up homes nearby. Any bets since this NY Times story appeared, the price of land has already jumped upwards in their little community hive.
This increase in land price, the economic rent, should be recycled back into community coffers so that:
a) the community can look after itself,
b) deadweight taxes that harm small business and thus wages can be abolished,
c) speculators are deterred from hiking up prices so that
d) the creatives that re-invented this community aren’t ushered out by the high rents their trendiness attracts?
Makes sense doesn’t it! Go on join our e-list (right hand nav bar) or subscribe to the Renegade Economists podcast!