One in six cities is suffering from depopulation largely due to the shifting tides of economic opportunity and emigration to the outer suburbs. Formerly vibrant working and middle-class neighborhoods begin to decay as they are slowly abandoned, land prices and local taxes plummet and urban blight results when the remaining inhabitants are unwilling or unable to maintain a constructive and supportive community.
Forum had an exciting program this week discussing the efforts of Flint, Michigan to downsize to fit their post-industrial economy. Briefly, the Genesee County Land Bank is buying up vacant, abandoned lots (in addition to the properties of locals who want to move out), cleaning them up and attempting to create spaces that will increase local quality of life and property values (e.g. parks). They're providing free use of plots to inhabitants who want to improve their neighborhoods (e.g. by creating community gardens) and they're offering plots for sale at deep discounts to citizens with constructive ideas. They specifically mentioned how they hoped to attract artists and urban farmers to transform cheap, unappealing land back into space that people would want to live in.
I hate watching progressive rings of poorly-designed and cheaply-built suburbs and exurbs chew out into the good agricultural land and wilderness surrounding our cities. As a proponent of New Urbanism and Suburban infill, I LOVE that this local community is making efforts to revitalize and repopulate it's downtown and inner suburbs.
Why don't we switch our agricultural subsidies to ripping up urban driveways and alleys and hauling away housing debris so that urban farmers can grow high-value fruits and vegetables for local consumption?