NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Several cities whose housing markets were hit especially hard by the recession may take decades to recover, according to a new report from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The housing markets that dominate this list are mostly in the South and Southwest, in cities like Stockton, Calif.; Modesto, Calif.; Fort Myers, Fla.; and Paradise, Nev. According to the report, these metropolitan areas have seen housing prices decline by anywhere from 50% to 75% between 2006 and 2009, and may now be America’s newest breed of dying cities, caused specifically by the Great Recession.

“Typically, a declining city is one that suffers a major loss in population owing to a dramatic reduction in its employment base,” said James R. Follain, a senior fellow at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, which produced the report. Detroit would be an example of this kind of city, where the failing auto industry hurt the region’s job and housing market. But places like Stockton and Modesto were never exactly manufacturing centers, so the decline of their housing markets have a different origin altogether, with perhaps a bleaker future as a result.

“The new identified declining cities are places that grew substantially during the housing boom and are now experiencing unprecedented declines in home prices and increases in foreclosures,” Follain said.

Stockton, which sits outside San Francisco, grew in popularity as more Californians settled in the suburbs to commute to work, leading to more inflated housing prices. However, the housing prospects were abruptly undermined by increases in unemployment rates, gas prices and, of course, the bursting housing bubble.

Now, according to this report, which is based on an analysis of data from other declining American cities during the previous 40 years, it could take until 2030 for housing prices in these metropolitan areas to bounce back to pre-recession levels. In order for these markets to recover, though, they must first adapt to what Follain calls the “new normal,” where housing prices settle for a time at lower levels and potential homeowners have stricter access to mortgage loans. As he notes, this will initially lower demand for housing in general, but eventually, it should lead to another wave of growth in some of these cities.

On the other hand, Follain warns these dying cities could potentially poison housing markets in nearby metropolitan areas, thereby stunting the overall improvement of the housing market – and economy as a whole – in certain regions of the country. This is of particular concern since the housing market is generally the most likely factor to plunge the U.S. economy into a recession.

At least for the near future, the sun belt may be the gloomiest region of the country.

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