The idea of razing houses or even whole neighborhoods is one that’s been bandied about for a while, but it’s just so bizarre and antithetical to normal thinking that the talk still seems confined to the fringes.
But a report in UK’s The Telegraph is getting lots of play around the internet, as it claims that Barack Obama is weighing plans to bulldoze parts of 50 American cities, along the lines of what’s been done in Flint, MI and other rust-belt cities.
The radical experiment is the brainchild of Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County, which includes Flint.
Having outlined his strategy to Barack Obama during the election campaign, Mr Kildee has now been approached by the US government and a group of charities who want him to apply what he has learnt to the rest of the country.
Mr Kildee said he will concentrate on 50 cities, identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington think-tank, as potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes.
So far this Telegraph report is the only thing we’ve seen that says Kildee has been approached by the US government, and we still haven’t been able to find the Brookings study that identifies the cities. We’d like to know which they are.
Is the idea that ridiculous? Maybe not as much as it sounds. The idea of bulldozing homes and buildings has the faint smell of the broken window fallacy, except that the point wouldn’t be to bulldoze them for the purpose of rebuilding them or creating jobs, it’d be just to shrink the size of the city. And given the population loss of a city like Detroit, why should it’s cash-strapped government be bound to govern and manage the old geography with decrepit (possibly) uninhabitable buildings?
As long as home bulldozing isn’t being done to prop up the value of the remaining houses (which would be ridiculous) but rather to shrink cities, the idea is worth pursuing.