Phoenix: Not busy being born is busy dying

Speaking of Dylan…one of his most famous lines, written forty-six years ago, is standing up to the test of time just fine, thank you, in Phoenix this year. 

How so? 

An example: The title of a High Country News story about the city's fate is called Demise of a Housing Growth Machine.

The story focuses on a weighty study published five years ago that predicted that soon ten million people would be living between Tucson and Phoenix; generating mountains of cash.

Instead Phoenix has been devastated by the Great Recession — unemployment, foreclosure, debt, and economic misery. When I visited fora convention a couple of years ago, the only billboards you could see for miles around were for short sales. Housing prices have collapsed.

It gets worse, much worse:

The dark cloud, meanwhile, continues to hover over Phoenix and Las Vegas, where housing prices have plummeted nearly 10 percent even during the last year, not to mention the 50 + percent drops that they’ve experienced since the peak of the boom. Tucson, Boise and many a mid-sized California city aren’t faring much better. That’s in spite of mortgage interest rates being lower than they’ve been in about four decades. 

The apocalyptic James Howard Kunstler would say — told you so. Phoenix and Las Vegas will soon "depopulate", he warns, due to oil shocks. And rising gas prices have contributed to the city's economic woes, as they heighten the cost of sprawl. Intensifying heat and dust hasn't helped. 

A few years back Timothy Egan of The New York Times brought up the possibility of the city becoming "uninhabitable" (in a great column reprinted here). Could this be happening already? 

Look at the numbers, and it's clear the Great Recession hit Phoneix very hard. In 2009 the city appeared to be losing people.

Looking at decadal stats, experts say only that it's population has dramatically slowed — from 35% to 9%. They suggest it's still growing.

But then I see something like this in Phoenix this year, and I think of Dylan and the apocalyptics…


From the Phoenix Sun.

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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