Special Report

30 American Ghost Towns

There are over 1.5 million vacant single family houses and condos in the United States. The reasons for why these homes are classified as vacant vary. Some are in popular vacation areas and are used only seasonally. Others are on the market, waiting for a renter or a buyer. Many, however, are effectively abandoned.

Nationwide, only about 1.6% of single-family homes are vacant. In some parts of the country, however, vacancy rates are many times the national figure, exceeding 20%, and even 30% in the most extreme cases.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the share of single-family homes that were unoccupied as of the end of the third quarter of 2019 to identify the 30 ZIP codes with the highest vacancy rates — America’s ghost towns. Vacancy rates in these areas, which were calculated by ATTOM Data Solutions using tax assessor data, range from 16.0% to 31.3%.

The majority of ZIP codes on this list tend to be in urban areas in the South and Midwest. The vast majority of these areas with nation-leading vacancy rates are in Rust Belt cities. These cities have been hollowed out by the decline of American manufacturing and currently have little to offer in the way of economic opportunity.

Each of the 30 ZIP codes on this list has a poverty rate of over 30% — which is more than double the comparable national poverty rate of 14.6%. Many of these ZIP codes are concentrated within a single city. Places like Gary, Indiana; Flint, Michigan; Cleveland, and Detroit have multiple ZIP codes on this list. These cities are relatively poor, and some even rank among the poorest nationwide. Here is a list of the 50 poorest U.S. metro areas.

High vacancy rates are indicative of low demand for housing, and indeed, most of these areas have reported a population decline in the last five years. The reduced demand has likely led to declining home values.

In the last five years, the median home value has declined in the majority of the ZIP codes on this list. In stark contrast to these places, in some U.S. cities, home values have appreciated by over 10% in the last year alone. Here is a look at America’s fastest growing housing markets.

Additionally, in 28 of the ZIP codes on this list, the typical home is worth less than $75,000. For context, the median home value nationwide is $193,500.

Click here to see 30 American ghost towns.
Click here to see our methodology.

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