Sunday, April 11, 2010

Small towns and ghost towns after the crisis

Anonymous said...
When Argentina had the collapse and people lost their homes.... who had money to buy these lost homes? I live in the US and am expecting a collapse. I can see how many people could loose homes. What I don't understand... where is the line of people waiting to buy and live in these houses if we have huge massive forclosures? If we have these villages sprout up around major cities... then will the suburbs be ghost towns?
April 11, 2010 5:57 AM

VERY interesting question, thanks.

At first you just moved there and built whatever you could, you didn't buy the land. Later when it became something like "Barter Town", with more population and their local leaders, the parcels witihin Villa 31 started to get get sold.

Ghost towns is the word that caught my attention the most there.
Yes, we have these perfect little rural towns surrounded by natural beauty that just turned into ghost towns.
 I lived in Cordoba for a couple years, traveled (most often by car) to pretty much every province in the country and the amount of ghost towns is something you can’t avoid noticing.
According to this article,-pueblos-olvidados.html there’s currently 800 towns that are dieing, about to become ghost towns. This is of course not considering the ones that already are. The article mentions Villa Union. I’ve been there 8 years ago, it was already in-route to becoming a ghost town back then. Very sad an surreal going through a town with very few people left living there, very few houses with lights on.

Colinas de Carlos Paz: Expecting a tourism boom that never occured, this town died before it even started. Notice the house quality in comparison to the "Villas"

What happened?

First, many railroad stations simply closed as the railroad company cut down expenses and reduced its budget. Also, roads aren’t kept properly and some are simply abandoned because of budget reasons.
This is important to keep in mind because if logistic companies have to reduce their routes because there’s a crisis, or because there’s problems getting gasoline for whatever reason, towns and producers that are too far away from the main cities will suffer a lot or just die.

Second, many of these towns simply had no jobs for people. As we often discuss here, its nice to have a garden or orchard BUT PEOPLE NEED REAL JOBS NONE THE LESS. A job that pays in whatever currency is being used, real jobs and salaries.
I’m using capital letters here because this fantasy is often one of the greatest misconceptions among the survival community, spread by popular fantasy and survival fiction writers. It would be a tragedy to prepare thinking something will happen because you read so in a novel, only to find out that your plan is fatally flawed.

During the Argentine farmer crisis last year where the government tried to tax and fine producers up to 80% , this was one of the most important factors: Kill the producers and you wipe out all these small and medium scale towns that had managed to survive so far. They live exclusively thanks to the income this small, and most importantly medium and large scale agricultural producers make. These companies end up buying heavy machinery, supplies, investing, the wives sets up a boutique store or something similar in the town, their children go out to have fun, have money to spend. There’s work at the various large scale farms and producing industries, there’s money being made and spent. That’s what keeps a small town alive, it can’t simply survive on Martha trading apples for John’s eggs at the local Sunday faire. John’s eggs wont pay for the power bill, and Martha’s apples can’t be used for a down payment for money to invest in something else. Money, guys, you need money.

Wrapping this up and another very important point I want to make before going for a walk with the family: A small town that depends on agriculture alone wont cut it if there’s a serious crisis. I know this is what Mel Tappan said and to some point I agree with his logic, but not when it comes to depending on agriculture alone to keep a town alinve. I don’t agree because I’ve seen it fail miserably, that’s why. You need a small town that also has other industries. Preferably medium size machinery production, which will do relatively well after the country can no longer afford to import since, which the collapsed currency, its cheaper in some cases to produced locally. Of course we’re no longer talking about a small town, are we. Medium size town? So be it. At least you know it wont die, if something affects the local agriculture. This town will preferably be at a healthy distance from the mayor metropolis like NY and LA.

Good topic to ponder and consider with a cool head when relocating.
Take care guys, have a nice Sunday.



Just_In_Case_The_SHTF said...

Another challenge with rural and small towns is the lack of availability of skilled services. The United States has had a rural doctor program for a very long time, yet it is hard to make the doctors stick around after their terms of service are done:

Rural Doctor Program Is Flawed, Study Says

I can't blame the doctors for leaving either. One reason I studied so hard in school is that I saw education as my ticket out of rural America (the quality of life may be great, but the career opportunities are few):

The Rural Brain Drain

Once an area (such as a neighborhood in a city or a small town) starts into a slow decline, it is often hard to turn the situation around.

If the SHTF so badly that we approach Armageddon, however, then rural and small town life may gain an appeal as a less worse alternative to living in large cities. But if that situation develops, things will have become so bad that basic subsistence will have become our primary goal in life (which is how life was before the industrial revolution created a world of relative plenty for those fortunate enough to live in industrialized economies).

Anonymous said...

We live here in a small village in lower Michigan, USA. One thing I've considered since my childhood is the who, what, where, and why of ghost towns. Visiting them (there are quite a few here in my state)is somewhat of a hobby of mine. It's fun (for me) to research, search for, and explore them. At least in the USA, I believe that ghost towns are understood in the context of the times, the economy and in light also of the existence of boom towns (a form or indicator of economic bubble). From the 1840's until the beginning of the Depression of the 1930's we had various industries here begin, flourish for a time, and then collapse, either slowly or quickly. The result of the collapses were ghost towns, developing like the boom towns, only in reverse. That is what we see here now, with tillable land holding it's value well, and all other real estate falling. That's what happened in Detroit (where the population has fallen 50% since the end of WW2) and other Rust Belt cities, the centers collapse into ghettos or "ghost towns" as the industries that caused their growth collapse, and people move away faster than the real estate market can absorb the increase in supply of houses, and so then prices collapse further in a downward spiral, etc. People move away, toward the next Good Place. For example, when the local auto industry fell on hard times in the 1980's, people left here & went to energy jobs in Texas and Oklahoma, making new ghost towns here. At the beginning of the current decline, we had many recruiters come through this area again, only this time wanting us to go to Wyoming and Montana, again for energy jobs, (Bust here, Boom there). Many who left in the 1980's came back here for auto industry jobs in the 90's when energy became cheap again (Bust there, Boom here), only to leave this time for Out West again. Thus at least in my lifetime, an ebb & flow, have I observed. The town we live in is in the center of a "triangle" about 20-30 miles from each of the points, with the capitol city on the north point, an aerospace manufacturing center on the east point, and a cluster of fairly large cities with a lot of varied manufacturing to the west. I chose manufacturing as my career, because it still pays quite well, and suits me well. In a SHTF situation, if I had to drop out of society, I think sqatting in a very remote ghost town would be one plausible scenario, but if we're only talking something like the 1930's then my present location is probably as good as any. If manufacturing diminishes or collapses (like if a value-added tax is passed) I could possibly switch to growing produce for market, as long as gasoline was available, or move closer to whichever city seemed to have the best "quality of life".
If I had to leave Michigan, but could go anywhere else, I would go to the Quad Cities area, located on the western edge of Illinois and the eastern edge of Iowa, both good agriculture areas, lower taxes (in Iowa), better climate, less people and good manufacturing areas.

Loquisimo said...

Eric's observation that most ghost towns in the US and Canada are the result of economic bubbles gone bad, or of vanished industry, seems to hold true. I was trying to find photos of ghost towns in Argentina when I happened upon an article describing how the town of Ravenswood, West Virginia, which was formerly an aluminum smelting and processing center, is slowly being abandoned with the closure of the smelter and the imminent closure of the processing plant.

The article describes how there's no work anywhere in the US, so people in these post-industrial ghost towns have nowhere to go. The towns will die eventually when the kids move away, but for now they're becoming something like bandit societies where people make money through theft or con artistry. The US has agricultural ghost towns too, most of them in the upper Great Plains where the weather is brutal (-30 F winters) and the soil hard to till, so people just left.

The desert state of Nevada in the US has some 1,400 abandoned historical sites, most the result of mining activity that ended when the ore was depleted. The towns had severe problems with potable water and food, and when the ore ran out they were abandoned. Nevada also has a "ghost county", Esmeralda County, where all the towns are considered ghost towns. Mineral, Pershing, and White Pine counties have only one main population center, the county seat. Churchill County can be said to only have one town, Fallon, but the population is more diffuse than in the others, with a large valley having sparse but regular habitation.

Buying land is fraught with problems in modern America, there's literally nowhere to go, even New York City has a 50% vacancy rate in the skyscrapers and bandits roam the streets hijacking vehicles that carry things like soda cans (the aluminum is recycled at shady yards). Las Vegas has gone from paradise in the desert to yet another Nevada ghost town in just a few years. Of course, it takes time for 2.5 million people to leave a city, but the writing is on the wall as we say. America's economy has been killed, and America may become a ghost nation eventually.

russell1200 said...

The United States has its share of ghost towns. Most of them seem to have been dominated by one industry and when that one industry went away, so did the purpose for the town.

But what you seem to be seeing in Argentina is that the main stream economy is simply abandoning groups that do not produce anything of sufficient value, nor consume enough to be profitable to service.

This is not unlike what the modern world has done to portions of Africa: they don't exploit (there is nothing to exploit), but simply ignore it.

To see this on such a large scale, within a country that is at least thought of being somewhat prosperous is amazing.

Loquisimo said...

Colinas de Carlos Paz reminds me of another ghost town that was built for tourists who never materialized, Salton City, on the shores of California's Salton Sea.,_CA

What wiki DOESN'T tell you is that Salton City's grand opening was just in time for the real estate collapse of 1958, which touched off a short recession. Several planned communities never materialized due to the 1958 collapse, which was the result of corruption in a government program intended to let WW2 veterans buy houses cheaply. In addition to Salton City, the planned community of Marincielo, overlooking the Pacific Ocean across from San Francisco, was abruptly abandoned after just a tiny bit of infrastructure was put in. The area was sold to the federal govt and now constitutes the Marin Headlands, a park.

Anonymous said...

Loquisimo said: "even New York City has a 50% vacancy rate in the skyscrapers and bandits roam the streets hijacking vehicles that carry things like soda cans (the aluminum is recycled at shady yards)."

I live in Brooklyn and commute to Manhattan for work. I have yet to see or read about anyone being hijacked for their soda cans. We do have a woman in our neighborhood who sorts through the trash thrown out by thye larger apartments buildings (6 to 10 floors high), and collects recyclable bottles and cans. She then brings them to automated machines that pay out 5 cents per bottle/can. I thought perhaps she was very poor or homeless. Then I saw her when she wasn't sorting trash, dressed middle class, having lunch in our neighborhood pizzeria. I was a little embarrassed to think about how I had stereotyped her.

Anyway, it's not Armageddon in New York City. Come visit while you can and enjoy yourself.

Anonymous said...

How did land outside the larger cities do after the Argentina collapse... not the burbs, but small acre homesteads? I've read your notes on people who were tortured in isolated areas.

We are buying a place w/ cash for investment - about 5 acres with a humble house outside the city. Close enough to be w/in an hours drive, but far enough to be considered country and not burbs. We'll enjoy during good economic times as a second home. This has neighbors you can see, but just not on top of each other compared to inner city. This is not an Idaho retreat, but a place we could probably get to if our large US city had major problems. And we could store a few supplies to get us through a short term event; while also leaving our city life home going for job purposes.

Did these type of set-ups prove helpful for those inner-city people during the Argentina collapse?

Anonymous said...

"Loquisimo said: "even New York City has a 50% vacancy rate in the skyscrapers and bandits roam the streets hijacking vehicles that carry things like soda cans (the aluminum is recycled at shady yards)."

Puzzling and untrue observations. I visit NYC frequently to visit relatives. The last time I was there, the city was the cleanest and most vibrant I've ever seen it. Numerous ethnic enclaves living next to each other in relative peace and with nifty food of every type on street and corners.

I don't know what the future holds but bad times are not there now.


Anonymous said...

Hey FerFal. You stated you need money most of all and I agree if it's a slow slide or a mild depression. But what good is money in a Weimar Republic or Zimbabwe type hyperinflation? What would you do in those types of extreme situations?

Anonymous said...

I think that now Argentina is improving because when I went to the Buenos Aires apartment I saw that there are many buildings in construction.