The Place with the Most Vacant Homes in America, According to Data
August 7, 2022
There are many reasons why a community can wind up with too many houses and not enough people to live in them. Sometimes, it’s a simple case of population loss or an economic downturn that leads to a rash of foreclosures. Other times, there are larger forces at work, like developers overbuilding in anticipation of a housing boom that never materializes. For many regions, COVID-19 has swiftly and drastically impacted the housing market, causing a shortage of affordable housing for most, and an opportunity for second or even third homes for others. No matter the case, a glut of housing inventory can spell bad news for a neighborhood, a town, or an entire metro region.
According to a CityLab report based on a recent study by the Center for Community Progress, a nationwide epidemic of unoccupied homes is “America’s other housing crisis.” The report cites the “staggering economic and social costs” that mass vacancies tend to create for the communities they affect. It also points out that the 2008 recession sent the number of vacant homes soaring by 26% between 2005 and 2010, from 9.5 million to 12 million. While that number has since declined, the number of vacancies has never returned to the pre-recession lows in the ensuing decade.
In that time, the dynamic has shifted. Vacant homes were long associated with economically distressed urban centers often described with the umbrella term “inner city.” Today, however, vacancies are the bane of small towns. In post-recession America, rural areas suffer from vacancy rates that are double those found in metropolitan regions.
Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau 2019 American Community Survey released in December 2020 (the most recent available), Stacker compiled a list of the 50 metro areas with the most unoccupied homes. Metro areas are ranked by the percentage of unoccupied homes out of all the homes in each metro area. Ties were broken by the total number of unoccupied homes in the metro area as a whole.
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