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Downsized Cities, Crippled RE Industries

Migration has forced some cities to a battered property market.

Forbes Magazine’s 2009 list of America’s Downsized Cities presents alarming findings about the country’s declining population in key cities because of one reason: reputation. In our older post, we’ve mentioned about the importance of perception in a city’s capacity to attract people to become its residents. Interestingly, the publication has cited the same reason but this time, causing a negative effect. Kathryn foster of the Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth said to Forbes, “A lackluster reputation often keeps potential newcomers away, while young adults born there tend to flee because of a lack of a diverse range of opportunities. However, many of those born and bred in the area do return when its time to settle down.” The top 10 cities from the first to last include Youngstown, OH, Flint, MI, Cleveland, OH, Detroit, MI, Dayton, OH, Buffalo, NY, Toledo, OH, Pittsburgh, PA., Lansing, MI, and Providence, RI.

Youngstown was criticized for the downfall of the auto industry and the continued outsourcing of local jobs. The magazine explains, “General perceptions of these Rust Belt cities (Pittsburgh,PA and Buffalo,NY)—that they’re backward, dilapidated and cultureless—are often too harsh. And that’s why, over the last decade, these areas have seen the biggest decreases in population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”

In the words of Peter Fugiel, Ph.D. of Chicago’s Keller Williams & Fox Associates states, “Local communities face a series of challenges in the next decade stemming from the turmoil in the real estate markets. The challenge for communities is not only coming from the real estate markets. There are other challenges as well. The big generational shift, historic levels of immigration, and in some areas, unnoticed population losses are causing significant demographic shifts.” For this, Youngstown seems to fit in the description.

But frankly, we find Forbes’ sneering at Youngstown a bit too harsh for this city. To be fair, we’ve come across their homeownership programs that included incentives such as $5,000 grants, $3,000 to $5,000 deferred, forgivable loans, and other perks as long as buyers meet the set criteria. The city government has also assisted laid off workers in terms of foreclosure prevention, job placement and healthcare. In general, Forbes’ list has some exaggeration involved and it turned out to be an obvious marring on the city’s image. Mayor Jay Williams needs some effective crisis management until the next list comes out next year.

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