This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

How the economic crash of 2008 helped my little Arizona neighborhood


When I bought my house in Glendale, Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix) over 20 years ago, I wondered what the neighborhood would look like in the future. I had seen how quickly neighborhoods had deteriorated in Phoenix, and I just hoped for the best.

Unlike most people that I talk to, I am not interested in an increasing market value for my house. It's not for sale. This is where I want to live. I like it here. I don't want to move away. As an old Californian, I know that exploding home values don't help people who want to stay, they only help people who want to leave. The people who stay just have to pay more property taxes. Google "Proposition 13" if you want to see how terrible it can be for people.

I live in a patio home neighborhood. The houses are very small, the lots are very small, even the streets are very small. For me, as a confirmed bachelor, this was perfect. Mostly I wanted a garage for my car, and a little bit of backyard. And I watched the neighborhood age. I watched the old folks who had lived in the neighborhood before I got there get older and more fearful. Many of the houses, which had originally been owned, were now rentals. And then the economy tanked in 2008.

Suddenly there were "For Sale" signs all over my neighborhood. Some of the houses were abandoned. And in spite of a homeowner's association, there were unkempt lots, and even a few stray abandoned cars. And I know that all of the neighborhoods around here took hits like this. People were losing their jobs, losing their houses. I know people were who "upside down" - who owed more on their houses than the value and were stuck. 2008 was a terrible time. And then something incredible happened to my neighborhood, and I think I can explain why.

Almost immediately, all of the "For Sale" signs in my neighborhood were gone. The neighborhood started brightening up again. People were moving in and fixing it up. And I guess that a lot of people who had lost their big houses on their big lots were disappointed at having to squeeze themselves into my tiny neighborhood. But they were going to make the most of it. And I got to see it up close and personal yesterday afternoon.

I was invited to a neighborhood party yesterday afternoon. It's the first I'd ever seen in all of the years that I've been here. It was held by a neighbor of mine just a few doors down. He and his wife put out chairs, tables, an awning, and rolled out their grill onto the driveway. I walked over at about four and hung around for about an hour. And all around me I saw life. Young couples, babies, children, dogs. It was wonderful and amazing. It was a neighborhood, a community. People were saying hello, shaking hands, eating hot dogs.

I like it here.