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Surprisingly Swanky Homes in America's Bankrupt Towns

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Last week, the New York Times published an examination of the challenges facing American towns that are running out of money, fittingly entitled "Broke Town, U.S.A." Vallejo, Calif., Central Falls, R.I., and Hamtramck, Mich. are all in the red and close to bankruptcy, but, while politicians and bond holders bicker over the financial fallout, people still, well, live there. When we went looking for real estate offerings in these three towns we found some surprisingly swanky digs for municipalities gripped by the threat of suspended garbage collection, reduced emergency services, and canceled kindergarten classes. Even those residents with houses on the market aren't letting them go for the bargain prices one might expect.

This Tudor-style manse (above) sits on a half-acre corner lot in Vallejo, Calif. The town was first hit hard by the closing of the local naval base in the 90s. In the midst of the latest recession, tax revenues plummeted by nearly a third, forcing the town to declare bankruptcy. Apparently that has convinced the owners, who have owned the house since its completion in 1928, to finally part ways with this four-bedroom. Luckily the culture, excitement, and jobs of San Francisco are just 25 miles away. And no, $539K isn't cheap, but for that money the buyer gets one of the finest houses in town.

? For $389K in Central Falls, R.I., one lucky buyer can take over the developer's residence in a converted mill building along the Blackstone River. The property mixes original industrial details with modern bathrooms and an open plan kitchen. While the views aren't bad, who's to know what will become of the town; even the mayor has been relieved of his job. Rhode Island's fourth-largest city, Pawtucket, lies just to the south, so hopefully a municipal merger might quickly quell the financial morass in Central Falls.

? Hamtramck, Mich., within Detroit's city limits, has been particularly hard hit by the recession and may "run out of cash next month." That doesn't sound like fun, but the next buyer of this $56K Hamtramck two-bedroom will be soaking it up in the Jacuzzi bathtub while the city sorts out its problems. After all, this house was first listed at $125K when it hit the market back in September of last year. No, its not a palace, but its as close as one can get for $400-a-month mortgage payments. Plus, if luxury bathing gets a bit tiresome, there's always Hamtramck's music scene, including the famed Paycheck's Lounge.
· Broke Town, U.S.A. [NYT]
· 1140 Tuolumne Street, Vallejo [Redfin]
· 555 Roosevelt Ave, Central Falls [Zillow]
· One More Job Lost in the Recession: The Mayor’s [NYT]
· 11662 Nagel St, Hamtramck [Zillow]