America’s Emptiest Cities

From Zack O’Malley Greenburg,, February 12, 2009. We quote without comment:

“Las Vegas edged Detroit for the title of America’s most abandoned city. Atlanta came in third, followed by Greensboro, N.C., and  Dayton, Ohio. Our rankings, a combination of rental and homeowner vacancy rates for the 75 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the country, are based on fourth-quarter data released Feb. 3 by the Census Bureau. Each was ranked on rental vacancies and housing vacancies; the final ranking is an average of the two.

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“Cities like Detroit and Dayton are casualties of America’s lengthy industrial decline. Others, like Las Vegas and Orlando, are mostly victims of the recent housing bust. Boston and New York are among the lone bright spots, while Honolulu is the nation’s best with a vacancy rate of 5.8% for homes and a scant 0.5% for rentals.

“Still, empty neighborhoods are becoming an increasingly daunting problem across the country. The national rental vacancy rate now stands at 10.1%, up from 9.6% a year ago; homeowner vacancy has edged up from 2.8% to 2.9%. Richmond, Va.’s rental vacancy rate of 23.7% is the worst in America, while Orlando’s 7.4% rate is lousiest on the homeowner side. Detroit and Las Vegas are among the worst offenders by both measures–the Motor City sports vacancy rates of 19.9% for rentals and 4% for homes; Sin City has rates of 16% and 4.7%, respectively.”

Update: The Wall Street Journal of September 26-27, 2009, devotes a major, front-page story to the fate of Detroit. Michael M. Phillips, In One Home, a Mighty City’s Rise and Fall, at p. A1. It brings the horrifying news that the median price of  a Detroit home is $7100. That’s right, $7100, not $71,000. The author of this story makes his point by tracking the fortunes and misfortunes of a home built on Boston Boulevard in 1917. Your faithful servant lived in Detroit in the late 1950s and can attest to the fact that in those days Boston Boulevard was a spiffy street, the home of big, gracious homes. Now, 100 homes in the Boston Boulevard neighborhood are vacant. The home that is the subject of this story (picture on p. A11) was just bought by the Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corporation in the hope that it may be revived and sold to a new family willing to bet on Detroit, for $30,000 to $35,000. Good luck.