When the real estate market went bananas in the middle of the last decade, Teton County, Idaho, couldnt approve new subdivisions fast enough. In fact, the Idaho valley, which is located just over the pass from pricey Jackson, Wyo., was named one of the fastest-growing counties in the United States.
But when the housing market plummeted in 2008, the booms extravagance became painfully apparent, reports NewWest.net: The number of vacant lots in Teton County 7,791 was almost equal to the countys population of 8,800. In a recent talk at a Denver land-use conference, Anna Trentadue, an attorney in Teton County for Valley Advocates for Responsible Development, recalled that the rush to develop land was so reckless that thousands of lots were platted in the far nether regions of the valley with no real long-term vision for how the county would be able to provide basic services to these areas.
Trentadue was initially surprised when the audience began to laugh during her presentation; then she realized that they were just incredulous.
NEVADA AND CHINA
In Nevada, of course, developers didnt just plat far-flung suburban subdivisions and Las Vegas condos; they actually built them during the real estate bubble, and did so at a rapid clip.
Last year, the number of empty homes in Nevada rose to 167,564, according to U.S. Census data. Thats the equivalent of one out of every seven houses, which helps explain why, this past January, Nevada enjoyed the dubious distinction of having the highest foreclosure rate in the nation.
On the up side, if you can call it that, bargains galore can be found throughout the Silver State because prices of many houses and apartments have dropped by more than half. Save over $460,000 on a new house on the Strip is now a typical headline on the Top Ten Las Vegas Home Deals website.
But the Wests housing boom and bust cant compare to the spectacular scale of nonstop overbuilding in China. To keep its economy humming, China has built and continues to build entire cities, though few of its citizens can afford to live in the high-rise apartments or shop in the sprawling new malls, reports the television show Dateline Australia. The startling 99 percent vacancy rate for one mega-city built for 22 million people in the Pearl Delta is typical; whats even more appalling is the countrys total number of empty apartments 64 million.
Whats next offering a free derringer with every mammogram or a free Uzi with the purchase of a La-Z-Boy? You just might see it happen, because guns sell. The managers of a Radio Shack in Hamilton, Mont., found that out after they placed a giant sign above their Super Store: Protect yourself with Dish Network. Sign up now, get free gun. The managers had hoped that the sign would lure new customers from the Bitterroot Valley, but they were surprised when hundreds of passersby stopped their cars to take pictures of the sign or dropped in to see if the offer was legitimate.
Buyers got to choose between a Hi Point 380 pistol or a 20-gauge shotgun, reports the Billings Gazette, though all had to undergo background checks at the nearby Frontier Guns & Ammo.
Were not just giving guns to felons, assured Radio Shack store manager Fabian Levy. Almost all of the new customers told Levy and store owner Steve Strand how much they liked the gun promotion, but Strand said he was surprised to find that many women including some in their 60s and 70s showed up only because they wanted a free gun.
In the Good News Department, an engineer for a proposed $4 billion-$6 billion, 1,000-turbine wind farm south of Rawlins, Wyo., found that the average wind speed in the area for January was a high and consistent 42 mph. If the wind farm is built as planned on a ranch owned by the Anschutz Corp., it would produce enough power for 600,000 homes, reports the Casper Star-Tribune.
Meanwhile, in the Western Bad News Sweepstakes, the state of Arizona is surely a contender. The former CEO and current board chairman of Intel, Craig Barrett, criticized Arizonas coming deep cuts in education and told the states lawmakers recently that if Intel had it do over again, the company would not locate there.
I hate to say it, but I think Arizona would not be in the top 10 locales to make that investment, he told the Arizona Republic. So far, Intel has spent $14 billion in the state, with another $5 billion to come for a planned new computer chip fabrication plant in Chandler.
Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, an op ed service of High Country News (firstname.lastname@example.org) in Paonia, Colo.