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Is it the 51 corridor with all the Levitske property? That might be ideal for development. Eastland Mall cries out for some creative problem solving. The same with the Century III area.

Why $300,000 for a housing unit? Here are a couple of factors. The market demands 3,000 square feet. It also demands move-in condition. No do-it-yourself. Restrictive covenants in big developments also discourage a do-it-yourself ethos.

If you want houses for $60,000 or less, you can certainly find them. They're old, you need to worry about the plumbing, the roof and gutters, the furnace. But you'll also have something to get in tune with. I don't want to go all "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" but when you fix something you know it and it also tells you something about yourself. The people who live in Woodland Heights miss out on that, or compensate by building decks.

sean mcdaniel

Would this be a better place if we did?

Last: Why do the homes have to start at $300,000? Geez.

The answer to the first question is yes...having 200,000 people move back (with jobs) is kind of like having Derek Jeter and A-Rod, two future hall of fame infielders, in your lineup...which one switches to a different position...which one bats third...an embarrassment of riches is a good problem to work with...

and for the second question...
$300,000 in baltimore is probably equivalent to our $200,000 home...it's what the market will bear...and as i asked John Morris...if he can sell a photograph at his gallery for $500, should he mark it down to $50 so a struggling art student working at the crazy goat coffee shop can buy it?

you might say that housing is essential, and art isn't (sorry john m). but even cave dwellers decorated their cribs with paintings. so once we get past the basic needs, should art be affordable?

but maybe the house price is more like every shirt at target or kaufmann's costing $200 or instead a selection in the $25 or less range. but i said it before, home builders have no obligation of any kind to develop subdivisions (or urban residences) filled with houses selling for $100,000, regardless of the market.

let me ask you (and anyone else), if you bought for a rundown place in bloomfield for $50,000, did some renovations that cost you about $50,000 and then could sell it for $175,OOO three years later, would you take the money? or would you say to the potential buyer, look, all i really need is a little above what i orginally paid to cover the investment, take care of the loans and handle the closing costs on my next place?

housing developers are in business to make money...as much as they can, as fast as they can...because someday, we might just run out of space or suburban communities might just have to say "enough." i know it won't happen soon, but still...

sean mcdaniel

sure, you get in tune when you do your own repairs...you also take away some income from the small contractor who relies on that kind of business. as for me, i'm pretty proud of myself for being able to checkout at giant eagle on my own...especially since most of the clerks frighten the hell out of me.

John Morris

Well, now like all this blogging sort of explains why every home will cost a fortune soon. People just can't manage to get thier noses out of other peoples--. Everybody want's to use force against everyone else to create that perfect little world.

The poor slobs and artists then have to pay for all the lawyers and experts and studies and counter studies and bribes that go into this.

Everyone want's to grab thier little thing and then close the door behind them.

In the time Pittsburgh has taken to produce not a whole lot the entire city of Hong Kong was basically built. Invest in India!

sean mcdaniel

you know JM: at some point in their lives...most people want some creature comforts...whether it's a granite kitchen counter top...or a nice investment portfolio...just ask david hockney or annie liebovitz...did you know that ansel adams hung out with the rockefellers?

as for honk kong...sure, it's an economic powerhouse...with unrestricted growth...some of the costliest real estate in the world...miserable, wretched living conditions for the poor...bad air...corruption...and just about every other problem i don't ever want to see here. it's a great place to invest in...but i wouldn't want to live there.

John Morris

A portfolio run by someone smart enough not to invest here.

Word to the wise. Read these blogs and read them well before you invest in America. I am stuck now, but don't you make the same mistake.

America isn't America anymore

sean mcdaniel

which america do you miss...the one where women and black knew their places in society? the one where carnegie and frick called in the pinkertons to squash angry workers fed up with subhuman working conditions and company town...the america where 8 year old died in industrial accidents...the america where rural residents far out numbered urban types...? america is always changing/evolving. sometimes it might move in a direction that's not all that fantastic...but really what america are you missing?

John Morris

We never really did it and lived up to it but America was suposed to be about freedom. No Dagny, there's not a single mind left.

Jonathan Potts


You are correct. Developers are in business to make money, and they have no obligation to build affordable housing. Which is why I'm happy to see the Piatts build as many half-million dollar condos Downtown as their hearts desire. Just don't do it with public money.

sean mcdaniel


My point wasn't whether the Piatts or others should get subsidies...the thought on this thread seems to be "why do developers charge $300,000 or more for a new home?" The answer, of course, is because they can. Subsidies are a separate issue.

Jonathan Potts

What? We're sticking to the threads all of a sudden? Why didn't I get the memo?

sean mcdaniel

yea, i know...


Check out these pictures of Hong Kong. I was there in April of this year... have you ever been there John? It is a place very few can afford to live - and more and more of them are becoming tourists. There is a lot of government housing but it is not great. Take a look at these pictures. Many of these public housing estates are 10'x10'.
These are pretty amazing:

And its funny you bring up India - I spent a few months there last year, and I'm actually moving there for a 1-year fellowship in a couple of weeks. I've invested in some vacant land on the outskirts of a city there, hoping it'll be part of the city soon.


Oops, just realized that I meant foreigners, not tourists in the last comment

John Morris

No, I haven't been to Hong Kong and I know it has it's problems. But, from what I know it is a pretty amazing city. In 1949 it was a big refugee camp and then with almost no help beyond the inplied protection of the british and American government they built this huge thing.

Remember Hong Kong was started out with low wage manufacturing and then made these quick transformations into a a huge port and finacial center for most of Asia pretty fast.

Also, interestingly enough in spite of it's free market history. Housing was big area the government got involved in.

Eric E

Interesting, perhaps, once you get past the fact that they've taken the upper limit of every possible projection and used that stretch to invoke the possibility of recession. And Al Gore's supposed to get a bad rap for taking less cautious scientific evidence for global warming? Sheesh.

Beyond that complaint, one of the money quotes in that article is about how surburban residents of Anne Arundel and Howard Counties are the ones who are blocking development, because they like their leafy quiet streets as they are. Turns out that not only did they come for the space, privacy and quiet, but - although they may not have realized it at the time - they came for the green and open space. As long as we have positive population growth, this is what happens in suburbs: people build more houses and roads. The way you escape that cycle is to not try to have every house have its own amenities (i.e. open space, room for a basketball court in the driveway and a pool in the back), but rather you share the amenities among the community. It requires more putting up with other people for sure, and brings the headaches of finding consensus on how exactly to fund and do these things. But you will never get a park of any size out of a private developer - that's land they could have turned into money.

Planning is like capitalism - it's a lousy system in a lot of ways, and mistakes are definitely made, but it's hard to see anything else that works when there are a lot people and they ain't going anywhere. I have a hard time reconciling your points on how the steel industry's execs, unions and employees let the industry go to hell with the butt-out-government stance you seem to advocate. The consequences of the mistakes those companies were free to make have resonated for all us for years. Surely we don't want to leave all things open to those kind of individual mistakes? I'm not necessarily lining up behind O'Connor's plan to shower Piatt with money, just saying there is a case for it.

sean mcdaniel

sometimes to me the free market approach seems like loading your family into a car, like putting a brick on the gas pedal, set it out on the open road...and making sure no one is in the driver's seat...it might get to where you want it to go (but who knows since anything that's mapped out smacks of planning and interference) but it might also crash and burn along the way...as always, i'll say there's a middle ground between someone telling me how to reach my preferred destination and hoping a runaway car makes it without any intervention.

and maybe pittsburgh is a misguided car at times. but you have to chose a direction and do something to get it there.

Sam M

OK. So let's say we hire a chauffer. The same chauffer who has been driving the car for the past 60 years. And so far he has wrecked about 10 times and killed half the people in the car.

Isn't it time to fire the chauffer?

sean mcdaniel

agreed...you need a better driver...but the limo's just as dangerous without the driver. and maybe it's time for a different car. that 60 year old model might not be the best for moving forward today.

John Morris


Kind of don't have time for this. Ever heard of Hayek? Mises? NO. Wanna see how many cars these "drivers have wrecked" ? The whole world is full of them.

sean mcdaniel

well, i hope your time is well spent making your business a success. yeah, heard of these guys. so what? more theory. i'm not a big believer in theory. well, gravity's one i do hold on to in a big way.

check out money mag's best places to live...other than boise, they're all suburbs (by your way of thinking), and one's even a pre-fab city, columbia, md. not one of them fits your definition of a city (you know, st. mary's, pa., isn't a city because it's not manhattan). ft. collins, CO, is number one? ever been there? it's one hell of a town with a nice, long business district that has everything in it you need...except skyscrapers and 10,000 people living in a square inch of space.

i like cities. love them. big ones like nyc. and small ones like pgh. and no two are really alike, even with all the similarities you migh find. somehow, you seem to want every city to be a 10-million person megaopolis. and that's never going to happen. anywhere. anytime.

John Morris


I said what I said and i never said that. The record of what I said is on this blog for everyone to read.

sean mcdaniel

okay. so you did say that st. mary's is a small town. i'll give you that. but you also said it's irrelevant to bring in a discussion of cities. you win. a minor point.

now, how about talking about whether:

a) only scum live in the suburbs and suck the life out of cities
b) only scum live in america and invest in emerging economies like india
c) only scum live in pittsburgh and ride county subsidized transit (without paying county tax)

or should we stick to the "i said what i said" tact, popeye?

sean mcdaniel

actually, there is an option d)

how about talking about whether:

d) choices a, b and c are absurd!

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