For much of the past thirty years, it looked like that last promise would be fulfilled. Between 1980 and 2007, the population of the Las Vegas metropolitan area more than quadrupled, spurring a massive construction boom. With government programs encouraging home ownership, the city's population growth translated into rising home values.
As Harmony Homes' Rob Beville puts it, "Federal programs assist people to buy homes ... the more people qualified, the greater the demand. Once the demand started to shoot up, land values started to shoot up ... and prices started to climb. It basically got to a point where it couldn't sustain itself."
Just as Vegas flourished in boom times, it has been devastated by the economic crisis. For the last two years, it has led the country in foreclosures. Today, over 80% of Las Vegas mortgages are underwater, with homeowners owing more than the value of their homes.
Beville notes that banks foreclosed on 19,000 houses in Vegas through October, and that an estimated 50,000 homes are going to come back on the market at greatly reduced prices. With a flood of foreclosed homes competing with the abandoned and partially-constructed houses peppering the city, it doesn't look like housing prices in Las Vegas will rebound anytime soon.
As banks try to unload large numbers of unsaleable properties and abandoned homes rattle in the desert breeze, it seems that at least one Vegas truism has proved to be a lie: In the City of Second Chances, the house doesn't always win.