Special Report

30 American Ghost Towns

Source: Courtesy of Cherice J. via Yelp

30. ZIP 48238 (Detroit, Michigan)
> Vacant homes: 1,720 (16.0%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -8.6%
> Population: 28,447
> Median home value: $34,800

The 48238 ZIP code is one of several in the city of Detroit with a near nation-leading vacancy rate. There are about 10,700 single family homes in the area — which is located northwest of downtown Detroit — and 1,720 of them are vacant, or 16.0%.

As is the case in most places on this list, people are moving out of the 48238 ZIP code. In the last five years, the area’s population has declined by 8.6%. The shrinking population and high vacancy rate have likely pushed area real estate values down. The typical area home is worth just $34,800.

Source: Lahti213 / Wikimedia Commons

29. ZIP 35234 (Birmingham, Alabama)
> Vacant homes: 350 (16.2%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -10.2%
> Population: 5,446
> Median home value: $62,000

The 35234 ZIP code is located just north of downtown Birmingham, largely in between Interstate 20 and Interstate 65. Of the 2,167 homes in the area, 350 are vacant. The area’s higher than national average vacancy rate of 16.2% may be partially attributable to population decline. In the last five years, the number of people living in the ZIP code fell by 10.2%.

As is the case in nearly every other ZIP code on this list, economic opportunity appears to be scarce in the 35234 ZIP code. More than one in every three residents live below the poverty line, and most households earn less than $25,000 a year.

Source: Kylestonephotgraphy / Wikimedia Commons

28. ZIP 35218 (Birmingham, Alabama)
> Vacant homes: 316 (16.2%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -5.3%
> Population: 7,097
> Median home value: $63,800

The 35218 ZIP code, located in western Birmingham, is one of a handful of Alabama ZIP codes to rank on this list. There are 316 vacant properties in the area, equal to 16.2% of all area homes.

The vacancy problem in the area is likely made worse by population decline. In the last five years, the number of people living in the area declined by 5.3%. The exodus may be attributable in part to a lack of economic opportunity — as like many ZIP codes on this list, this section of Birmingham is poor. Most area households earn less than $25,000 a year, and over 41% of area residents live below the poverty line.

Source: Eric Fischer / Flickr

27. ZIP 46208 (Indianapolis, Indiana)
> Vacant homes: 1,337 (16.4%)
> 5-yr. Population change: 2.3%
> Population: 23,300
> Median home value: $103,900

There are 1,337 vacant properties in the north-central Indianapolis ZIP code of 46208, up from fewer than 1,000 a year prior. Relatively few vacant properties in the area are likely abandoned, however, as the vast majority are classified as investment properties, meaning they are likely either on the rental market or waiting to be sold at a profit by the owner. However, real estate values in the area appear to be declining. In the last five years, the value of the typical home fell from $108,300 to $103,900, a 4.1% drop.

Source: Courtesy of Greg N. via Yelp

26. ZIP 48205 (Detroit, Michigan)
> Vacant homes: 2,138 (16.4%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -10.5%
> Population: 34,620
> Median home value: $30,600

The 48205 ZIP code is located in northern Detroit and is one of three areas in Motor City with near nation-leading home vacancy rates. There are over 2,100 vacant homes — or 16.4% of all homes — in this part of the city. As is often the case, the area’s high vacancy rate is likely tied to rapid population decline. In the last five years, the number of people living in the area has fallen by over 10%.

Reduced demand for housing and the high vacancy rate have likely had a chilling effect on property values. The typical area home is worth just $30,600, down a staggering 31.7% from five years earlier, when the typical area home was worth $44,800.

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