Speculation and the City
May 19, 2016 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Property speculators own nearly 20 percent of all property in Detroit. Though their practices vary, speculation often changes the role and use of property in neighborhoods and communities. At its most extreme, speculation generates vacancy and abandonment. It is often a practice with minimal investment that hastening the deterioration of houses, commercial, and industrial buildings.

What you see here are the owners of multiple parcels of land in the city of Detroit.
posted by latkes (17 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why am I not surprised that the name Moroun features prominently?
posted by Gronk at 11:05 AM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


He has enough land around the Ambassador Bridge to form his own city-state.
posted by bukvich at 11:19 AM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Pretty stunning to see. I guess I'm a bit surprised that the properties look relatively evenly distributed (though its somewhat hard to tell — the colors start bleeding out when you zoom out on the map). I don't know why, but I expected speculation would be more obviously concentrated in certain areas or neighborhoods.
posted by Kabanos at 11:35 AM on May 19, 2016


I wish this had a bit more context.

"Though their practices vary, speculation often changes the role and use of property in neighborhoods and communities." - what changes do they mean, exactly? Are they arguing that most/all of the big property owners are slumlords? That they're gentrifying neighborhoods and kicking the poor people out (not as likely in Detroit)?

It's a really interesting topic, but the map alone doesn't tell me very much.
posted by zug at 11:54 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Speculation is a huge problem in the city of Detroit (Matty Moroun & the Detroit International Bridge Co. is the most heinous example); but I think the approach taken here casts a fairly wide net:
How do we define speculation?
a. Three or more parcels in area in which the owner does not have a taxable address.
b. Ownership of a large number of parcels in varying conditions and disuse.
c. Single vacant or abandoned property held by an owner with an out­-of-­state or international address.
d. A residential property that serves as a taxable address for multiple owners with three or more holdings in the city.

That's tagging a lot of landowners with the "speculator" label that probably don't deserve it. Small-time landlords, people who've moved to the suburbs but still own land near relatives, etc.

(I also wish the pattern was clearer at lower zoom levels :/)
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 11:55 AM on May 19, 2016


In Chicago they're so desperate to get speculators that in some neighborhoods they are selling lots for $1. The hitch is that the speculators have to be local, and have been local for a couple of years, to the neighborhood.
posted by srboisvert at 12:24 PM on May 19, 2016


Isn't any non-secured investment by definition speculative?
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 12:39 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Any investment is speculative, but when you have remote landlords randomly buying up properties specifically with no intention of putting any further money into them and just hoping that someday somehow magically the value will rise, you get a lot of shitty landlording.
posted by praemunire at 1:03 PM on May 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


Some context -- the person who created the map is Joshua Akers, assistant professor of geography and urban & regional studies at University of Michigan, Dearborn. Here's an article he co-wrote called Detroit on $1 Million a Day, and a description of a walking tour he did in 2013 that sounds fascinating.
posted by selfmedicating at 1:58 PM on May 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


On the East Side, developer Melvin Washington is apparently setting up some sort of Neutral Zone around Grosse Pointe Park?

It literally looks like a single-owner square mile.
posted by atomo at 2:05 PM on May 19, 2016


when you have remote landlords randomly buying up properties specifically with no intention of putting any further money into them and just hoping that someday somehow magically the value will rise

I've been searching by keywords and not finding anything, but I could swear that Metafilter had an FPP recently about the same thing happening in New York City. In that story, many of NYC's street-level neighborhood retail stores & delis are closing, replaced by ... nothing at all, just boarded-up shells, all in the middle of increasing population (i.e. demand) and real estate prices so high you'd think it impossible to sustain such unprofitability. But the reason is that there's just so much money with nowhere else to go in the hands of outside investors and hedge funds with deep pockets. It's the opposite end of the economic spectrum from Detroit, but in both cases the result is large swaths of deliberately abandoned property owned by people who don't want to be actual landlords, just to wait for real estate values to rise even further so their investments appreciate.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 2:26 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, I hear many tulip owners don't even enjoy gardening.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:45 PM on May 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


@Harvey Kilobit - Is this it?
posted by Borborygmus at 3:10 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


many of NYC's street-level neighborhood retail stores & delis are closing, replaced by ... nothing at all, just boarded-up shells, all in the middle of increasing population (i.e. demand) and real estate prices so high you'd think it impossible to sustain such unprofitability. But the reason is that there's just so much money with nowhere else to go in the hands of outside investors and hedge funds with deep pockets.

Generally speaking (I'm sure there are many exceptions), these properties are not being bought vacant. Rather, an existing developer raises the rent on the business tenant, and the tenant closes or moves, leaving the space vacant. Because commercial leases are generally longer than residential leases (7-10 years), a landlord is naturally willing to have a property be vacant for a certain period if it thinks it will lead to a higher rent. However, at this point I believe leaving vacancies long-term (because this is not 2007-08, and the landlord could probably put a tenant in at some profit) is primarily about claiming expenses on taxes.

It's pernicious. One imagines its leading to neighborhoods of high-priced condos surrounded by nothing but empty storefronts. Basically, the suburbanization of the city.
posted by praemunire at 3:12 PM on May 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Ugh, that stuff about storefronts -- downtown Oakland is entirely empty storefronts right now, waiting for Uber to move in to their new office so they can put in the priciest businesses possible, I guess. And/or chain stores. I don't know when it happened, but it makes my skin crawl to think about whole downtowns with exactly the same content as suburban malls.
posted by gusandrews at 5:56 PM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have been in downtown Oakland for 20 yrs, and there are places that are STILL vacant ,you would call and ask about the rental cost and would be given some BS sq ft rate that was about 50 -100% higher than it should be.
posted by boilermonster at 11:39 PM on May 19, 2016


And to follow up on Borborygmus, the metafilter discussion about empty NYC stores.
posted by fings at 7:33 AM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


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