Special Report

30 American Ghost Towns

Source: dougtone / Flickr

30. ZIP 63133 (St. Louis, Missouri)
> Vacant homes: 437 (16.2%)
> 5 yr. population change: -13.0%
> Population: 7,507
> Median home value: $55,000

Of the nearly 2,700 single family homes in St. Louis’s 63133 postal code, 437 are unoccupied. The high vacancy rate is partially attributable to the area’s declining population. In the last five years, the ZIP code’s population dipped by 13.0%. Over the same period, the population of the broader St. Louis metro area remained effectively unchanged.

As is the case with many neighborhoods on this list, the 63133 ZIP code, which is just north of Washington University and bisected by route 180, is marked by economic strife. The area’s 39.5% poverty rate is more than double the national poverty rate of 15.1%. Additionally, likely due in part to widespread vacancy, the typical area home is worth just $55,000. To compare, the typical American home is worth nearly $185,000.

Source: lotzman / Flickr

29. ZIP 46404 (Gary, Indiana)
> Vacant homes: 1,005 (16.3%)
> 5 yr. population change: -1.2%
> Population: 17,332
> Median home value: $68,900

Though it is a relatively small city, home to less than 80,000 residents, Gary, Indiana, has more neighborhoods with near nation-leading vacancy rates than any other U.S. city. Over 1,000 single family homes in the 46404 ZIP code in western Gary are vacant.

Like many other ZIP codes on this list, property values are low in is this section of Gary. The typical area home is worth just $68,900, less than half the value of the typical U.S. home of $184,700. Some are taking advantage of the depreciated home values. More than two-thirds of vacant homes in the area are investment properties. Though they are currently without renters, these homes could be sold at a profit should demand for housing makes a come back in Gary.

Source: Thinkstock

28. ZIP 45402 (Dayton, Ohio)
> Vacant homes: 574 (16.3%)
> 5 yr. population change: -8.8%
> Population: 9,972
> Median home value: $60,200

The 45402 ZIP code in Dayton, Ohio, is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country. The typical area household earns just $20,718 a year, and nearly 47% of the neighborhood’s 9,972 residents live in poverty. Economic blight may be driving people out of the neighborhood. In the last five years, the 45402 ZIP code’s population fell by 8.8%, and currently, 16.3% of area homes are unoccupied.

The 45402 ZIP is centrally located in the city and is bisected by the Great Miami River. The area’s declining population and abandoned homes are a highly concentrated example of what is happening in the broader Dayton area. In the last five year, the Dayton metro area population shrank by 5.0%, and 3.0% of metro area households are unoccupied, more than in all but seven other metro areas nationwide.

Source: Dvortygirl / Wikimedia Commons

27. ZIP 96013 (Burney, California)
> Vacant homes: 220 (16.5%)
> 5 yr. population change: 25.6%
> Population: 4,538
> Median home value: $135,100

The 96013 ZIP code encompases the town of Burney, California, and extends over a large swath of land north of the town. There are an estimated 220 vacant homes in the ZIP code, or 16.5% of all single family homes and condos in the area. Unlike most towns and neighborhoods on this list, the population of Burney and parts of the surrounding area are growing. In the last five years, the number of residents in the 96013 ZIP code has grown by 25.6%, far outpacing the 3.9% national population growth over the same period.

While in many parts of the country high vacancy rates are largely attributable to people abandoning their homes, this is not the case in Burney. Of the 220 vacant homes, 186, or 85%, are investment properties. Nationwide, 75% of vacant homes are investment properties.

Source: Mbell1975 / Wikimedia Commons

26. ZIP 21217 (Baltimore, Maryland)
> Vacant homes: 2,145 (16.5%)
> 5 yr. population change: -1.6%
> Population: 38,596
> Median home value: $117,300

Situated on the south side of Druid Hill Park in northwest Baltimore, the 21217 ZIP code covers the city’s Reservoir Hill, Penn North, Druid Heights, Bolton Hill, and Upton neighborhoods. Far poorer than much of the surrounding metro area, more than one in three ZIP code residents live below the poverty line, compared to about one in 10 Baltimore metro area residents. In the last five years, the area’s population fell by 1.6%, evan as the broader Baltimore metro area population grew by 3.1%.

Poor economic conditions may be driving people out of the area and contributing to a near nation-leading home vacancy rate. More than 2,100 homes, or 16.5% of all single family homes, in the 21217 ZIP are unoccupied, well above the 2.5% share across the broader Baltimore metro area.