Earlier this year and last, a number of publications and Web sites attempted to make statistical sense of the country's housing markets by publishing lists: the best housing markets, the worst real estate markets, America's strongest housing markets, etc. After scrutinizing a number of these charts, I finally came to the conclusion that the turmoil in the real estate, mortgage, credit and financial markets over the past three years has turned urban demography upside down. Whatever you thought you knew about growth, metro expansion plans and cities that attract the most move-ins is probably widely incorrect at this point in time. Take my city of Mesa, Ariz., for example. When I moved here in the 1970s the city counted about 70,000 people. Today, its population rests somewhere between 460,000 and 500,000, larger than Kansas City, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and many older metros in the Midwest and East that we think of as "big cities." In the 1990s, Mesa was the fas...
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