Two sides to housing prices

Philadelphia housing prices fell to 2003 levels, but the city fared better than others still reeling from the real-estate bubble burst. Sales were also off, according to Kevin Gillen of Econsult Corp., who said it marked the third-lowest quarter since 1995.

Since the bubble burst, Philadelphia values dropped 15 percent compared to 31 percent in the country’s 20 largest cities.

“What may appear to be good signs are really bad for us in the long term. We’ve fallen by less because we soared by much less when times were good,” said Gillen, citing tax burdens, regulations, construction costs and other structural problems as “a lid on where we can go. Las Vegas, Phoenix and other places that have dropped so much will recover much more robustly while we’re still going to be dealing with those problems.”

Alan Greenberger, deputy mayor of economic development, said the city hasn’t historically risen or fallen as dramatically as other cities.

What interests him, however, is Philadelphia’s affordability and how it appeals to recent graduates. He says Center City and the surrounding neighborhoods fare favorably to what you’d pay in New York, Boston or Washington, D.C.

“The [recession-recovery] growth will be steady but not overly dramatic. Creating valuable assets, and letting people know about it, creates market demand,” he said.

“For recent graduates, Philadelphia is a very good choice that, frankly, is more affordable. That’s something we need to be concentrating on, as well as immigration and improving the economic quality of life.”

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