Friday, March 11, 2016

Here is a map of the most economically distressed areas in the nation. The red dots indicate the top ten most distressed cities.

Cleveland ranks as the Number One Most Distressed City in the nation. Why? Because it has a very high poverty rate of 36 percent, and 23 percent of adults lack even a high school diploma. A whopping 53 percent of all adults in the city are not working. People in Cleveland make just 54 percent of the statewide median income, and since 2010 the city has lost 2.2 percent of its jobs and 3.3 percent of its businesses.

Unhappily, three of the nation's most-distressed cities are in Ohio (the other two are Cincinnati and Toledo). And three others are nearby: Detroit, Milwaukee, and Buffalo.

Back in the 1930s and 1960s, the federal government established agencies like the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Appalachian Regional Commission to lift entire regions of the country out of their economic depressions and bring them modernity. Maybe that's needed for the South Great Lakes region today. I don't know.

The numbers show that Cleveland has a 21 percent housing vacancy rate. In 1950, Cleveland had a population of 915,00. Most of its residents lived in shitty clapboard housing throughout Downtown, Central, Industrial Valley, Tremont, and Ohio City. In the 1960s, Cleveland lost 14.3 percent of its population. It lost 23.6 percent of its population in the 1970s. It lost 11.9 percent of its population in the 1980s. Things stabilized a bit in the 1990s, but it saw a terrible 17.1 percent drop in the 2000s again. Even in the "good decades" since WWII (the 1950s, 1990s), Cleveland saw its population drop by 4 percent or so every decade. And it's on track to lose another 4 percent in this decade.

Despite having lost 57.5 percent of its population since 1950, Cleveland has done a fairly good job of handling the crisis. It has used tax liens to seize housing, and razed abandoned housing or sold it to developers. The Central and Goodrich Park/Kirtland neighborhoods have stabilized (albeit at shitty and low levels) because of this. Ohio City and Tremont have actually improved, in some areas very dramatically.

I don't count the housing vacancy rate as part of Cleveland's misery-index. That has largely been treated, and daylight can be seen at the end of the tunnel -- even if the end of the tunnel is still a long way off.


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