Special Report

30 American Ghost Towns

Source: Courtesy of D H. via Yelp

15. ZIP 39203 (Jackson, Mississippi)
> Vacant homes: 343 (17.7%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -6.2%
> Population: 6,250
> Median home value: $48,600

Few parts of the United States are as poor as the 39203 ZIP code around downtown Jackson, Mississippi, west of the Farish Street Historic District. Nearly half of all area residents live below the poverty line, and most households live on less than $20,000 a year.

Many of the poorest areas in the United States have high vacancy rates, and this part of the Mississippi state capital is no exception. Nearly 18% of all homes in the area are vacant, compared to just 1.6% of homes nationwide.

Source: HistoricBuildingFan / Wikimedia Commons

14. ZIP 45402 (Dayton, Ohio)
> Vacant homes: 725 (18.3%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -8.9%
> Population: 9,568
> Median home value: $56,200

Dayton, Ohio’s 45402 ZIP is centrally located in the city and is bisected by the Great Miami River. There are currently 725 vacant properties in the area, up from 574 a year ago. The growing vacancy problem is likely due in part to rapid population decline and the resultant reduced demand for housing. In the last five years, the number of people living in the Dayton ZIP code fell by 8.9%.

The area’s population decline is most likely attributable to poor economic conditions. The typical household in the area earns less than $25,000 a year, and over 42% of the population live in poverty, making the area one of the poorest in the United States.

Source: Chris Chan / Flickr

13. ZIP 48504 (Flint, Michigan)
> Vacant homes: 1,981 (18.5%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -7.5%
> Population: 28,316
> Median home value: $33,000

In a plan to reduce costs, Flint, Michigan, switched its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River in April, 2014. Less than a year later, the EPA reported dangerous concentrations of lead in the Flint water supply. The contaminated water resulted in a public health crisis and criminal investigations against city officials.

The water scandal has also likely exacerbated the Rust Belt city’s vacant property crisis. In the last five years, the number of people living in Flint’s 48504 ZIP code declined by 7.5%, and area property values fell by a staggering 30.5%. Currently, nearly 2,000 homes in the area in the northwestern section of the city and beyond are vacant.

Source: Paul Sableman / Wikimedia Commons

12. ZIP 63133 (St. Louis, Missouri)
> Vacant homes: 495 (18.5%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -11.1%
> Population: 7,299
> Median home value: $54,900

The 63133 ZIP code is located in St. Louis, Missouri, just north of Washington University and is bisected by route 180. Nearly 500 homes — or 18.5% of all homes — in the area are vacant, a 2.3% increase from last year.

As is the case in the majority of ZIP codes on this list, this part of St. Louis is reporting rapid population decline. In the last five years, the number of people living in the area fell by 11.1%. The resulting reduced demand for housing has likely dragged down real estate values. The typical area home is worth just $54,900, down 11.6% from the median home value in the area of $62,100 five years ago.

Source: Courtesy of R. Adidi E. via Yelp

11. ZIP 48206 (Detroit, Michigan)
> Vacant homes: 1,056 (18.6%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -20.2%
> Population: 16,905
> Median home value: $48,100

Detroit’s 48206 ZIP code is contained almost entirely by I-94 and I-96 on the south and west and routes 10 and 8 on the east and north. Few cities have been hit as hard by the decline of American manufacturing as Detroit, and the 48206 ZIP code is evidence of the decline. There are over 1,000 vacant homes in the area, or 18.6% of all area homes.

The high home vacancy rate has likely been exacerbated by population decline. In the last five years, the number of people living in the area fell by a staggering 20.2%. The rapid population decline is likely due in part to a lack of economic opportunity. Nearly 38% of area residents live below the poverty line, and the unemployment rate across the broader Detroit metro area stands at 4.5% as of August, well above the comparable national unemployment rate of 3.8%.

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