Special Report

15 American Ghost Towns

8. River Rouge, Michigan
> Vacancy rate:
> Vacant properties: 524
> Total residential properties: 3,375
> Median home value: $38,600

In only three of the thousands of cities reviewed is a typical home worth less than one in River Rouge, Michigan. The city’s median home value is just $38,600. The low property values are likely tied to the high vacancy rate, which at 15.5% trails just a handful of U.S. cities. An estimated one in every 675 properties in the city is in some phase of the foreclosure process, versus the nationwide rate of one in every 1,147 properties. In addition, as in most struggling housing markets, River Rouge’s population is declining. The population has shrunk by 9.5% since 2009.

7. Flint, Michigan
> Vacancy rate:
> Vacant properties: 9,699
> Total residential properties: 59,767
> Median home value: $41,700

Famously depicted in Michael Moore’s 1989 documentary “Roger & Me,” which examined the local effects of General Motors factory layoffs, few U.S. cities have a larger share of vacant homes than Flint, Michigan. Nearly one in every six homes in Flint is effectively abandoned. Once home to 114,374 people in 2009, the city’s population has dwindled to its current level of 101,649, roughly an 11% decline. Economic stagnation may not be the only reason people are leaving Flint. There is currently a class action lawsuit against the city for switching to a poisonous and inadequately treated water supply in a cost cutting measure.

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6. Brigantine, New Jersey
> Vacancy rate:
> Vacant properties: 1,793
> Total residential properties: 11,071
> Median home value: $383,400

An island city off the coast of New Jersey, Brigantine was hit particularly hard by Superstorm Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record. Voted one of New Jersey’s Best Places to Live by New Jersey Monthly in 2008, much of Brigantine sat in disrepair for some time following the storm. Today, 16.2% of all homes in Brigantine are vacant. Since 2009, more than one-fourth of residents have left the dilapidated coastal city.

5. Highland Park, Michigan
> Vacancy rate:
> Vacant properties: 2,716
> Total residential properties: 15,278
> Median home value: $42,200

Highland Park is one of many high vacancy rate cities in Michigan. Like a number of other cities with relatively large shares of abandoned homes, property values in Highland Park have fallen dramatically of late. The median home price dropped by over 35% in in the city from 2009 to 2013, one of the largest such declines. The typical home is valued at just $42,200, one of the lowest values in the country.

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