Vacant homes are a blight in several cities. Those hardest hit are the older industrial cities of the Midwest. They have lost population as people moved elsewhere to find jobs because manufacturing operations were shuttered. Detroit has thousands of these vacant homes. The city is in the midst of demolishing 14,000 of them. However, while Detroit has several ZIP codes with some of the highest vacancy rates, it is Gary, Indiana, that has the ZIP code with the highest vacancy rate nationwide.
Gary sits in the northwest corner of Indiana. It borders Lake Michigan on its north, and is just southeast of Chicago. Its population has plummeted in the last several decades. The number of people who lived there in 1970 was 175,415, according to the census. By 2020, the population declined to 69,093.
Gary is among the poorest cities in the nation. The median household income in the city is $34,085, which is about half the national number. The poverty rate of 32% is nearly three times the national figure. (See states where the most people live below the poverty line.)
In Gary’s ZIP code 46402, 709 homes, or 34.1% of all area homes, stand vacant, according to data from real estate company ATTOM Data Solutions. Across Indiana, 46,251, or 2.1% of all homes, are vacant – the third highest vacancy rate among states. Nationwide, the vacancy rate stood at 1.26% of all homes as of the fourth quarter of 2022.
Gary’s ZIP code 46402, home to about 6,549 people, lost 1.7% of its population in the five-years ending in 2020. And the median home value that year was $64,200, less than a third of the comparable national figure of $229,800. Three other ZIP codes in Gary have among the highest vacancy rates. (See where Gary ranks among the cities with the cheapest housing.)
One would think that in a hot national real estate market, no city would have a large number of vacant homes. But while some vacant homes nationwide are investment properties, other homes, as in cases like Gary’s, are simply abandoned, and the owners are either unable or unwilling to sell them.
In dozens of neighborhoods across the U.S., vacancy rates are many times higher than the national rate. See 24/7 Wall St.’s list of America’s ghost towns.
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