Special Report

30 American Ghost Towns

Source: Nyttend / Wikimedia Commons

20. ZIP 47305 (Muncie, Indiana)
> Vacant homes: 202 (16.9%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -12.1%
> Population: 3,639
> Median home value: $53,300

The 47305 ZIP code in Muncie, Indiana, along the south bank of the White River has a 16.9% vacancy rate, one of the highest in the United States. One likely explanation for the high vacancy rate in the area is rapid population decline in recent years. There are now just over 3,600 people living in the ZIP code, 12.1% less than there were five years ago.

Economic opportunities are often scarce in places with such steep population decline, and Muncie’s 47305 ZIP code is no exception. Most area households have an income of less than $24,000 a year, and a staggering 42.5% of the population live below the poverty line.

Source: Nyttend / Wikimedia Commons

19. ZIP 45214 (Cincinnati, Ohio)
> Vacant homes: 277 (17.0%)
> 5-yr. Population change: 0.3%
> Population: 8,366
> Median home value: $62,100

The 45214 ZIP code, which extends from just west of Cincinnati’s Washington Park up through the West End neighborhood over Mill Creek and into the Fairmount neighborhood, is one of many parts of Ohio to rank on this list. There are 277 vacant homes in the area, up from 213 a year ago.

The majority of vacant properties in the area 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. And despite the high vacancy rate, property in the area appears to be appreciating in value. In the last five years, the typical home increased in value by 8.4%, from $57,300 to $62,100.

Source: Adam Moss / Flickr

18. ZIP 46406 (Gary, Indiana)
> Vacant homes: 599 (17.2%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -4.4%
> Population: 9,462
> Median home value: $54,600

Gary, Indiana, was founded and operated by U.S. Steel. As the steel industry declined, so did Gary. The city has faced widespread socioeconomic problems, including drugs, violent crime, and widespread poverty. Due in part to longer-term population decline, today, in the 46406 ZIP code in western Gary, 599 homes are vacant.

As is often the case, many of the vacant properties in this part of Gary are investment properties — meaning they are likely either on the rental market or waiting to be sold at a profit by the owner. If recent trends are any indication, it may be a while before a real estate investment in the area pays off. The typical area home is worth just $54,600, down 10.2% from five years ago. Over the same period, the typical American home has appreciated in value by 9.5%.

Source: Paul Sableman / Flickr

17. ZIP 63115 (St. Louis, Missouri)
> Vacant homes: 1,276 (17.3%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -10.7%
> Population: 18,799
> Median home value: $55,000

The 63115 ZIP code in St. Louis is located just north of the Central West End neighborhood along O’Fallon Park. It is one of several parts of the Missouri city to have near nation-leading home vacancy rates. Some 1,276 area homes, or 17.3% of all area homes, are vacant. The problem has gotten considerably worse recently, as last year, there were only 670 vacant properties in the area.

High vacancy rates can be tied to higher crime rates, and St. Louis is a relatively dangerous city. There were 455 violent crimes in greater St. Louis for every 100,000 people, well above the national violent crime rate of 369 per 100,000.

Source: Publichall / Wikimedia Commons

16. ZIP 46016 (Anderson, Indiana)
> Vacant homes: 1,248 (17.6%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -3.1%
> Population: 18,300
> Median home value: $41,500

There are 1,248 vacant properties in the 46016 ZIP code — located in Anderson, Indiana — up from 1,056 vacant properties a year ago. The urban decay evidenced by the large share of vacant properties in the Anderson area is due in part to poor regional economic conditions. Some 38.2% of area residents live below the poverty line, more than double the 14.6% national poverty rate.

Anderson is located within the Indianapolis metro area, which ranks among the most dangerous in the country. There were 642 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in greater Indianapolis in 2018, far more than the 369 per 100,000 national violent crime rate.

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