A Victorian house in California could be sold for $1

Cheaper than a sandwich. In fact, cheaper than pretty much everything. Image: Google Street View.

If you live in a city, there’s a reasonable chance you’re also living in a housing crisis. In London, for example, you’d be lucky to snap up a high-end garage for £1m, especially if it’s in the catchment area of a good school.

But if you’re desperate and willing to up sticks to the other side of the world, there are still some pretty cheap options. In the Californian city of Redwood, a house could soon be on the market for $1. No, we haven’t left off the zeroes.  One dollar.

 It’s small – one storey, and there’s only a postage stamp-sized lawn outside. The city council also admits it “needs repairs”. But it’s a real, Victorian, house, built in around 1900, and the city council are planning to sell it for $1. Here’s a side view, to prove it’s not just a facade:

Here’s the catch (yes, there’s always a catch). You get the house for a buck. But you don’t get the rights to the land that it’s sitting on.

The low price is due to a quirk in the Redwood planning policy. D-listed houses – those “protected by planning law, but only up to a point” – can be demolished to make way for new developments, provided that attempts have been made to relocate the structure. What this means is that you can buy the house – but you then have to find some land to put it on, and work out a way of getting it there.

The Redwood bungalow will probably go on the market for about 90 days before it’s demolished and replaced with a seven-story apartment building (the city council will make their final decision when the apartment block gets planning permission). So you’ve got about three months to pack up your things and buy up a corner of a nearby field.

Insanely cheap housing isn’t as rare as one might think, either. In Detroit, there are numerous houses on sale for $1 – but there, you often take on unpaid gas and electricity bills, too. Not quite as good a deal.

 
 
 
 

CityMetric is now City Monitor! Come see us at our new home

City Monitor is now live in beta at citymonitor.ai.

CityMetric is now City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications from New Statesman Media Group. Our new site is now live in beta, so please visit us there going forward. Here’s what CityMetric readers should know about this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

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The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

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As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

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Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.