Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Vacant Homes

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I just read in today's (6 Feb 2008) WSJ that the home vacancy rate in Cleveland has hit 10%. Wow. Ten percent, people. That's a lot of empty homes.
To be fair, this is not just a reflection of the mortgage crisis. Cleveland has been losing population fairly steadily, anyway, due mostly to economic factors. Between depopulation and a foreclosure bonanza precipitated by crummy lending practices, they've got one out of every ten homes vacant. Rokakis (the county treasurer) remarks in the article that, even if the city were able to make improvements on those homes, it is unlikely they could find buyers.
So what's to be done? Cleveland, like a lot of cities, has a real problem on its hands. Vacant homes drive down property values of neighboring homes. They're a great place for vagrants / criminals / teenagers to hang out and get into trouble. Theft of copper pipe from vacant homes is also apparently a time-honored hobby these days. Weeds grow over lawns, presently a public safety hazard. It's a nightmare.
Cities respond, quite reasonably, by taking possession of these homes and either turning them over to responsible tenants (NPOs, for instance) and, when that isn't possible, demolishing them. Who knows? Maybe in 50 years there will be a bunch of urban prairie lots in the middle of former industrial cities.


Blogger lookout said...

Seems to be cities should adopt programs to subsidize young, first-time or other qualified buyers to help build their tax base back up and revitalize neighborhoods... you'd have to do it in a way that would keep out corporations and speculators just looking to make a buck... i.e., the city might establish a huge penalty for selling within the the first five or 10 years.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Bill Lindeke said...

My question to you Stephen is how those 10% are clustered... are they all in the same neighborhoods?

While many articles point out that these vacancies and foreclosures ARE spread out through every city, certainly the density is concentrated in poorer communities, right?

2:28 PM  

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