Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sundown Belt

The Sun Belt has long harbored shrinking cities. It's a Rust Belt story where you least expect to find one. There is a new kid on the block, real estate bubble boomtowns. Via Justin Hollander, the Sundown Belt has arrived:

The foreclosure and housing crises also hit [St. Petersburg] hard, according to Justin Hollander, an assistant professor for urban planning at Tufts University. He said 13 of the city's 16 ZIP codes lost residents from 2006 to 2009. But it's the same throughout the Sun Belt.

"Wide swaths of the Sun Belt are used to just growing all the time," he said. "But a large number of these places are just shrinking."

I started blogging in 2006 and read more than a few articles lamenting the brain drain in Florida. At the time, I figured the anxiety was only about the natives seeking greener grass. Little did I realize that these Sun Belt communities were getting their shrink on.

From the same article, St. Petersburg is trying to come to terms with the end of inmigration:

St. Petersburg joins such economically hard-hit Rust Belt cities as Flint, Cleveland, Buffalo and Detroit — cities that led the nation in population loss from 2008 to 2009, according to U.S. census estimates.

"It isn't a good sign for any area to be losing population," said Florida economist Hank Fishkind. "It erodes the demand for all goods and services."

Others say losing population isn't all bad, if it's managed well. Mayor Bill Foster said the city's population has long held steady between 240,000 to 250,000 residents, so he's not too worried.

"I don't think St. Pete has ever been of a mind-set that bigger is better," Foster said.

Sun Belt boomtowns are now in the business of managed decline. Next thing you know, folks will start leaving town for Pittsburgh and better job prospects. That's already yesterday's news.

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