The Vacant Sprawl

Tucson, Arizona (My Photo)

Tucson, Arizona (My Photo)

Via Planet Money, Arizona fire departments plagued by alarms in vacant houses:

“Neighbors can hear the alarm so they call us, but when we get up to the home, it’s vacant, locked up and we’re unable to access them,” said Kevin Pool, assistant chief with the Surprise Fire Department.

If you think about the transition that pretty much every old-time American city experienced in the 1970s, you know that rising vacancy rates can really devastate a neighborhood. But in terms of coping with that kind of scenario, a traditional urban neighborhood seems to have some significant advantages over a suburban or exurban one, notably including the fact that the quality of the underlying housing stock in old rowhouse neighborhoods was generally much higher than what you see in newer suburbs. There’s a real question as to what may become of new exurban slums in areas where the supply of houses simply exceeds the number of people who want to live there.