Where’s the opportunity in the ruins of Detroit?

Detroit has been on a long downward spiral for the past twenty years, as domestic auto manufacturing has moved overseas and south.  The reasons for this are many, but the result is tragic.  What Detroit needs is a new industry, and that industry is Retirement.

Detroit has a huge housing stock that is now available at low prices.  With a lack of jobs and housing for many more than can be employed, prices have plumetted.  Most people need a job in order to move to a new city, but retirees are price sensitive, and do not need jobs.  In fact, retirees have social security income and savings which are spent in the local economy.  The only things keeping retirees from moving to Detroit are crime and the weather.

We can’t do a whole lot about the weather.  Short of building a gigantic climate controlled dome over a portion of the city, Detroit is going to be cold in the winter.  Some retirees are used to this though and would do just fine in a colder climate.  The crime though, is a solvable problem.  If an enterprising developer bought up a square mile or so of blighted housing, and turned it into a gated retirement community with good security, crime in the retired area could be kept to a minimum.  The retirement area of course would have lots of recreation and activities for retirees, just like the sun belt communities do.

Even better for Detroit though is the economic effect that such a community would have.  Although the homes in Detroit are older and better constructed than newer homes, older homes do need maintainence.  The older population would not be able to do as much as younger home owners, and so the home maintainence industry would have to expand to keep the homes of the retired in good condition.  Lots of other services would be required, too, just as any other retirement community.

So who’s going to be the first to jump at this?  Interest rates are low, and the price of a city block full of homes has never been lower.  The population keeps getting older, and the boomers haven’t saved enough to move to Boca.  It’s time to pack up for Detroit.

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06 2009

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