Find a city.
Double-dog dare you.
Find one city.
Prove me wrong.
Find one city.
Because America's future is nothing more than the nightmare unfolding in Ferguson; a now 70 percent (and increasingly) black suburb of St. Louis, where K-Mart, Big Lots, and Toys 'R' Us have fled from in the past five months.
Where the Section 8 Voucher population has increased from 300 individuals receiving aid in 2000 to 800 in 2010. And virtually every individual (and thus, multiple family members living under a roof courtesy of the aid) using a Section 8 Voucher in Ferguson is black.
Indeed, the black population rose 150 percent in Ferguson from 1990 (when they represented just 25 percent of the population) to 2010.
You see, race isn't a social construct; race is the required blueprint for building a prosperous community or race can be the highly negative ingredient for the disintegration of social capital in a city.
Race is what constructs a thriving community or what defines a collapsing city.
It's this simple. [Ferguson home values are plummeting, and residents are feeling the pain: Down nearly 50 percent since Michael Brown’s death, new data show., Fusion.com, 3-16-15]:
Peering outside the office window of his tire shop, John Zisser grumbles about the pile of burnt rubble that lies on the opposite corner of a busy intersection.
“If you come here to my shop and you see that,” he says, as gestures out the window, “is that going to give you a warm, fuzzy feeling like you want to come back here to do business?”
“Short answer: no, no it’s not,” he says.
Zisser, 55, has owned and operated Zisser’s Tires in this city since 1987. He says the still-visible damage from the November protests that followed a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown is hurting property owners. His store’s insurance is in the process of being cancelled after it was twice vandalized during the unrest, he says.
“If I sold this place today, I could probably get $300,000 for it, if anyone is crazy enough to buy. Last year, the county said this lot was worth almost a million,” he says. “The value here is all going down. There’s about nine burnt-out buildings this way,” he says, pointing. “And about four more behind me.”
Zisser is one of many Ferguson residents feeling a financial toll from the months of protests, media attention, and now another high-profile shooting. They’re worried not just about their own situations, but about the city coffers, too. The future of Ferguson, they say, is anyone’s guess.
“How much money are we going to lose?” Zisser asks. “How much money is the city and the county going to lose in taxes because of this? And how much is the school district going to lose here? They’re the biggest losers.”
For the city’s 2014 budget, approximately 20 percent of the city’s revenue came from the city’s courts, and 17 percent came through property taxes. But after a Department of Justice report found the courts were profiting off racial discrimination, the State of Missouri took over to implement reforms. Couple that with rapidly falling property values (which are used to calculate owed taxes) and it seems like key parts of the city’s business plan are falling out from under it.
The average selling price of a home in the city has been on a steady decline since the shooting of Brown last August, according to housing data compiled from MARIS, an information and statistics service for real estate agents. Prior to Brown’s death, the average home sold in 2014 was selling for $66,764. For the last three and a half months of the year, the average home sold for $36,168, a 46 percent decrease.
The trend has continued on through this year, with the average home selling for only $22,951 so far in 2015. Another negative indicator: in the eight and a half months leading up to Brown’s death, the average residential square foot in 2014 was selling for $45.82. In the eight and a half months since Brown’s passing, the average residential square foot in the city has sold for $24.11. That’s about a 47 percent downtick in one of real estate’s core indicators.
“This is not normal for the region,” says Crista Patton, a local REMAX real estate agent who helped get these numbers for Fusion. “Last time I pulled up numbers like this for a neighborhood around here, we were seeing the market going up,” she says. “In St. Louis in general, the market is going up, and as a whole it’s almost completely recovered from the recession.”
The city admits that its finances are taking a hit, with no end in sight, due to the events since Brown’s death. “The[city’s] response to the unrest, as well as other related matters, has resulted in significant, unanticipated expenditures,” reads the city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for 2014. “The civil unrest also resulted in some lost revenues… At this time, the total impact of this event on the City’s revenues and expenses is not able to be estimated.”
Ferguson native David H. Pope, 76, who has worked as a realtor in the city for 48 years, says the current situation has made it nearly impossible to attract families to the area.
“I lost a sale yesterday,” he says, blaming the shooting of two police officers in front of the Ferguson Police Department. “This whole thing has been very, very detrimental to my work and the market here.”
But has David H. Pope forgotten a story from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in mid-2013, published long before the street of Canfield Drive had become a permanent home to the Michael Brown Memorial?
The story tells the sad tale of Ferguson resident Barbara Bandy, who had resided in the four bedroom home since 1973. She moved into the home when Ferguson was basically 100 percent white.
In in the subsequent four decades, Ferguson's racial demographics would basically flip-flop, to the point where the city will be nearly 100 percent black by 2020.
What's missing from this August 18, 2013 story is the racial realities of Ferguson's demise, and how the growth of black population significantly impacted the value of Bandy's home.
In 2013... long before Officer Darren Wilson encountered Michael Brown on August 9, 2014... [Blame poverty, age for weak North County home market, 8-18-2013]:
Barbara Bandy has been trying to sell her house for nearly a year, with no luck. Could the problem be that it’s in north St. Louis County?
She was optimistic when she started. It’s a nice Cape Cod with four bedrooms and two baths, built in the 1950s. In 2011, the St. Louis County assessor put its value at $117,500. She says she spent $20,000 fixing it up for sale.
“I’m up to here on credit,” she says, holding her hand up to her nose.
But when Bandy put it on the market, it sat. It wouldn’t sell at $98,000.
She cut the price to $94,000. She switched real estate agents, cut the price to $84,500 and still it sits.
“Now they want me to strike the price down again. Do you think that’s fair?” asks the elderly widow, who lived in the house for 40 years.
Her real estate agent also wants her to offer to finance part of the buyer’s mortgage. “What do they think I am? A bank?”
Her problem may be location. Her house is in Ferguson.
Ferguson is a picture of pleasant suburbia, a town of tree-lined streets and well-kept homes, much of them built for the middle class at mid-century.
But Ferguson is in north St. Louis County, and the area is suffering from one of the region’s weakest real estate markets. That’s worrying county officials, who fear it may reflect deeper economic problems in parts of North County.All is race. There is no other truth.
It's a truth we've seen played out in Ferguson, once a no-name suburb of St. Louis attracting quality citizens like Barbara Bandy, who raised her family in the almost all-white city.
She moved into her home in Ferguson in 1973, when she was 43 years-old.
A 100 percent white city then; a 70 percent black city in 2013, when she had to sell her most of her furniture because the value of her home had plummeted and she couldn't find any buyers.
The future of Ferguson was cemented long before Officer Darren Wilson sacrificed his future on August 9, 2014, merely by trying to do his job.
Just ask Barbara Bandy...