Special Report

30 American Ghost Towns

Source: Eli Pousson / Baltimore Heritage / Flickr

25. ZIP 21217 (Baltimore, Maryland)
> Vacant homes: 2,190 (16.6%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -9.6%
> Population: 36,563
> Median home value: $130,500

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. Across Baltimore as a whole, there are about 17,000 vacant properties, which have been driving up crime and dragging down property values for about a decade. In the 21217 ZIP code alone, 16.6% of all residences are vacant.

Of the 2,190 vacant homes in the area, however, more than 1,500 are classified as investment properties, which suggests that their owners may be renovating them or waiting for them to appreciate to sell. And unlike many ZIP codes on this list, property values are on the rise in this part of Baltimore. The typical area home is worth $130,500, a 15.6% increase from the median home value in the area five years earlier.

Source: Jon Dawson / Flickr

24. ZIP 15110 (Duquesne, Pennsylvania)
> Vacant homes: 345 (16.6%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -0.7%
> Population: 5,544
> Median home value: $37,800

The 15110 ZIP code in western Pennsylvania sits along the west bank of the Monongahela River and covers the small city of Duquesne. Of the 2,075 residential properties in the area, 345 are vacant. Like many parts of the country on this list, the ZIP code around Duquesne is poor. Most area households earn less than $25,000 a year, and 36.3% of area residents live below the poverty line.

Home values in the area are also low and do not appear to be improving. The typical area home is worth just $37,800, down from $38,300 five years earlier.

Source: Nyttend / Wikimedia Commons

23. ZIP 44112 (Cleveland, Ohio)
> Vacant homes: 1,148 (16.7%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -3.6%
> Population: 21,788
> Median home value: $59,800

The number of vacant properties in Cleveland’s 44112 ZIP code has increased substantially in recent months. There are currently 1,148 vacant homes in the area, located around the neighborhood of East Cleveland, up from 771 one year ago. The growing vacancy problem is likely tied in part to the area’s population decline. In the last five years, the number of people living in East Cleveland fell by 3.6%.

One common explanation for population decline in a given ZIP code is poor economic conditions — and many living in the 44112 ZIP code are struggling. Most area households earn less than $23,000 a year, and 38.7% of area residents live in poverty.

Source: Eli Pousson / Baltimore Heritage / Flickr

22. ZIP 21223 (Baltimore, Maryland)
> Vacant homes: 2,093 (16.7%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -1.0%
> Population: 23,811
> Median home value: $68,900

Baltimore’s 21223 ZIP code is one of only a few mid-Atlantic areas — and one of only two zip codes in Maryland — to rank on this list. Located just west of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the 21223 ZIP code has a far larger than typical share of vacant homes, at 16.7%.

The city of Baltimore as a whole has had a vacancy problem for some time. For the last 10 years, there have been about 17,000 vacant buildings across the city. In an effort to reduce that number, the city Housing Commissioner Michael Braverman has pledged to demolish about 2,000 of them in the next year. The 21223 ZIP code has already seen some improvement, as there are now 2,093 vacant properties, about 60 fewer than there were a year ago.

Source: Courtesy of Julia M. via Yelp

21. ZIP 46404 (Gary, Indiana)
> Vacant homes: 1,073 (16.9%)
> 5-yr. Population change: 2.7%
> Population: 17,441
> Median home value: $69,600

The 46404 ZIP code is one of several parts of the Rust Belt city of Gary, Indiana, to rank on this list. The area is located in west-central Gary, largely in between Interstate 90 and Interstate 94. Over 1,000 of the area code’s 6,349 homes are vacant, and many of those are likely abandoned.

Gary, a town founded by a steel company, has been in steady decline along with the American steel industry itself since the mid-20th century. The city’s population peaked at over 178,000 in 1960 and has since been cut by more than half.

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