This article was written with the assistance of A.I. technology, and has been edited and fact-checked by Melly Alazraki.
Gary, Indiana, a once-thriving city on the shores of Lake Michigan, is now a shadow of its former self. With more than one in three homes standing vacant in some neighborhoods, it is not hard to see why Gary is sometimes referred to as a “ghost town.”
Gary’s decline began in the late 1960s to early 1970s alongside the decline of the collapse of the steel industry. As the industry began laying off workers, many residents fled Gary. The population has continued to decline ever since.
There are an estimated 709 vacant homes in ZIP 46402 alone, and the vacancy rate in the neighborhood is a staggering 34.1%, according to a report about vacancy rates from ATTOM Data Solutions, a real estate information company. That is the highest vacancy rate of any ZIP code in the United States. For reference, the national vacancy rate is 1.26% of all homes.
Other ZIP codes in the city also have relatively high vacancy rates, presenting a major problem for Gary. The city looks abandoned and uninviting in some parts, and the numerous vacant homes drive down property values. The median home value in ZIP 46402 is just $64,200, according to five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey. For context, the typical home nationwide is worth $229,800.
The high vacancy rate in some of its neighborhoods is symptomatic of Gary’s larger economic problems. The city has a poverty rate of 32%, according to Census estimates from July 2022, and the unemployment rate was 4.9% in February 2023, according to preliminary estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The comparable national figures are 11.6% and 3.6%, respectively. The city is in desperate need of a turnaround.
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