Sunday, July 27, 2008

The river's edge

Ever wondered what the old homestead in Flint is worth these days? It's easy to find out on the city's property tax website.

Simply go to the parcel lookup page and enter the address. That will get you the parcel number. Just click on the parcel number and you'll get a page with the tax valuation and a description of the property. Then click on the link for "Sale Information" on the right side of the page near the top for a history of recent transactions and prices.

The process gives you another way to get a handle on Flint's economic if you needed another one.

And while it provides plenty of numbers, you're left wondering about the real stories behind various properties.

Take this 770 sq. ft. house at 2418 Riverside. It's located just across the Flint River from the now-demolished Buick City factory, so it's about as close as you can get to ground zero of America's deindustrialization. But from the photo, it could almost be a nice little cabin Up North that needs some work. You can probably hear the river from the backyard.

It's inexplicably owned by the Department for Veteran's Affairs, and it sold in 1980 for $18,000.

It's yours now for just 900 bucks, about the cost of a new iPhone.


  1. Real estate prices are dropping everywhere in America. This is due to over speculation of mortgage-backed financial securities, the out-sourcing of American jobs and even the discovery of asbesthos and the current class-action lawsuits.
    My point is that Flint is not the only community in America experiencing the destabilization of our homes.
    I wonder if Americans will tire of the high-priced South and Southwest and return to the affordable and cooler Midwest (several cities in Ohio have improved their economy by converting old factories into very inexpensive living lofts and and artistic lofts, thereby attracting the "creative class" and entrepreneurs).

  2. K.M.,

    I've often thought of all the self-employed people in San Francisco, who make a decent living doing things that they could pretty much do anywhere in the country. But they don't make enough to buy a home in SF, which requires at least $600,000. Now I know there's a lot more to life than a house, but think of what someone who works from home and makes $50,000 to $90,000 a year — or a couple making double that — could buy in Flint. You could have an amazing house and take vacations in Europe and eat caviar with your Mickey's Malt Liquor get the idea.

  3. K.M. Normington? What an awesome username. You must be one of the Woodcroft Estates Normingtons.

    Errr... as far as economic destabilization goes you are quite correct. While cheap homes in safe neighborhoods are almost nonexistent in entire metropolitan areas surrounding cities like San Francisco, Seattle, NYC, Chicago, etc etc they are quite abundant in surprisingly "cool" cities like St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Denver, and... well... Detroit. When you boil it down, how many avant-garde cinemas, coffee houses, boutiques, indie rock venues, esoteric bookstores, and assorted "stuff white people like" does a city need? Really one or two of each is enough. Sometimes you just don't need an erotic vegan bakery in every other neighborhood. Hardware stores and laundromats however are a must.

    Y'know, Portland and Minneapolis have a lot to offer, but I've had a blast in Indianapolis and Milwaukee as well. They’re off the "creative class" radar, but good enough for me.

    Now what about mid-sized (NON college affiliated [UMF and GMI... uh Kettering don't count. Schools like that are a dime a dozen]) cities like Flint? Y'know- Akron, Muncie, Peoria, Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, Jackson, Youngstown, Sagnasty, Green Bay, Lansing (EL is a few miles and a world away), and uh... Fort Wayne?

    Richard Floriduh's "creative class" be-damned, there aren't enough comfortable upper middle-class white folks to go around for all of these urban areas... and really isn't that the thrust of the "creative class"? In Dick's mind a liberal dusting of musicians, artists, non-threatening racial minorities, gays, and grad degrees equals instant prosperity. How condescending. Well, don't hold your breath Flintoids, a tsunami of hipsters from Williamsburg is probably not on the horizon.

    Gordo and K.M. are correct in thinking the future may provide a sprinkling of wealthy whities moving from locales like NYC to places like Flint and er... Janesville. Sure, if you can get a mansion in Flint for $200,000 vs. a one-bedroom condo in Chicago for the same price the appeal may present itself. Really though, creative classholes are not the huge demographic Floriduh makes them out to be. The few that will take the bait and can survive the UNDERSTIMULATION of the Midwest will probably choose Cincinnati over Gary and Louisville over Benton Harbor. Flint will not see a mass migration of NPR listeners. A few "This American Life" fans? Maybe. Enough to support zine/infoshop? NOOOOOOOO.

    What most mid-sized Midwest cities would benefit from is a massive influx of immigrants. People with kids, hope, reasonable expectations, and motivation. I'm sure they exist out there in the third, fourth, and fifth worldz. In fact we Americans have made millions of 'em in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Open the floodgates I say. Educated whiteys won't salvage urban America, but I'm pretty sure given the opportunity a few million Sudanese would. I can see it now: Little Missouri is usurped by Little Darfur. St. Michaels becomes the Al-Haji Mosque. Issa's Party Store is converted into a Halal market.

    So bring it on Barrack Osama and the Demopublican congress, we need MORE immigrants not less. Immigrants will save urban America.

    I expect, nay DEMAND a gaggle of East Timorese pioneers on the corner of Hamilton and Dupont this time next year.

  4. Smurfs, you've outdone yourself. This is brilliant.

    My only complaint is this sentence: "Gordo and K.M. are correct in thinking the future may provide a sprinkling of wealthy whities moving from locales like NYC to places like Flint and er... Janesville."

    I should clarify that I don't think this is ever going to happen. And I'm not thinking that such a migration would ever save Flint.

    I was more thinking out loud. There are so many people in SF obsessed with buying a house, that I often wonder why the hell they just don't move somewhere else and get the house they want. Mainly I'm just bored as hell with conversations about real estate.

    Here's another half-baked thought with now evidence behind it...with the population growth expected in the U.S., and the coming water shortages, a place like Flint really could be prime real estate in the future.

  5. So there is a town, Lewiston, Maine. Not a lot to offer, but due to a strange set of circumstances, ends up with a (relatively) massive influx of Somalis. . The interesting thing is the Somalis had been settled by relief agencies into big US cities, but in crap neighborhoods within those cities. Disappointed, they networked among each other. What they were after, they found in Lewiston: "Lewiston had good schools, a low crime rate, and cheap housing". So take a gander at the article, and let me ask:

    1. Can you see a town like Linden, Davison or whatever appealing to immigrants? What about Flint Proper?

    2. Does anyone feel the part about about the influx of immigrants versus upset mayor/locals/opportunist out-of-town nazis would play out anywhere near as progressively in the Genesee county?

    Ready... set.... BLOG amongst yourselves...

  6. Can property actully have negative value? Frankly, $900 is too much for this house. How about you pay ME $900 just to take it off of your hands.

    I searched the database and found a number of beautiful houses in HORRIBLE neighborhoods valued between $10,000 and $30,000. Even that is too expensive. Nobody will buy these homes.

    Will gasoline prices increase to the point that even arson is not financially feasible?


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at