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County in every state with the most unoccupied homes

  • County in every state with the most unoccupied homes

    Vacant housing is everywhere and while it might be an eyesore, a crime scene, or a sad reminder of loss, vacancy rates can be important to home buyers and owners, investors, banks, and communities. A vacant house might be a boarded-up city row house, a collapsed farmhouse, or an empty vacation cottage in the woods.

    Vacancies serve as a huge drag on the local housing market by diminishing the quality of life and the value of nearby properties. They also can cost millions for policing, cleanup, or demolition—and they reached epidemic proportions following the Great Recession that lasted from December 2007 through June 2009. The number of unoccupied dwellings between 2005 and 2010 rose to 12 million from 9.5 million between 2005 and 2010.

    A 2018 report from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy called “The Empty House Next Door” took a close look at vacant properties (whether abandoned or simply unused). The study shows that “hyper-vacancy”—areas where vacant buildings or lots account for 20% or more of structures—represented half of all census tracts in Cleveland.

    The report also underscores earlier studies, like the one from 2005 that found blocks with vacant buildings in Austin, Texas, had triple the number of drug calls to police and twice as many calls reporting violence than blocks without vacant buildings. Another study, from 2010, estimated vacancies in Philadelphia reduced real estate value in the city by $3.6 billion—or $8,000 per household.

    Rural areas and small towns have seen vacancy rates nearly double those of metropolitan areas; especially in Appalachia, the South, and the Great Plains. With resurgent growth, some locales have seen vacancies return to pre-recession levels, while others have had far slower recoveries. But some places are plagued by what is called hyper-vacancy.

    The U.S. Census Bureau found that 17,019,726 homes were vacant in 2018. The government’s count does not define how long a home must be vacant, and some may be for sale, for rent, or seasonal.

    The most recent data showed national vacancy rates in the second quarter of 2019 at 6.8% for rental housing and 1.3% for homeowner housing. Among rentals, the recent occupancy rate in the summer of 2019 was at its highest point since 2000, and it has been rising for several consecutive months.

    With housing vacancy rates a useful measure for homebuyers or investors, Stacker used the most recent available data from the U.S. Census Bureau 2018 American Community Survey to compile a list of the county with the most vacant homes in each state. Counties are ranked by the percentage of unoccupied homes out of all homes in each county, and ties are broken by considering the total number of unoccupied homes. The homes are also broken down into different categories to show a full picture of the vacant home status in America. Please note that Vermont is not included in this list, as the available data was insufficient.

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  • Alabama: Baldwin County

    - Total homes in county: 116,632
    - Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 33,131 (28.4% of total homes)
    --- Homes for rent: 16,578
    --- Homes rented but not occupied: 405
    --- Homes for sale: 1,228
    --- Homes sold, but not occupied: 879
    --- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 9,890
    --- Homes for migrant workers: 0
    --- Other vacant homes: 4,151

    Baldwin County, Ala., is located on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay, and most of it is rural and unincorporated. Its beaches are a tourist destination, but the region has been badly damaged by powerful hurricanes. More than a quarter of its homes are unoccupied, but housing sales have ticked up recently, and rental housing is plentiful as well.

  • Alaska: Matanuska-Susitna Borough

    - Total homes in county: 41,986
    - Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 9,788 (23.3% of total homes)
    --- Homes for rent: 603
    --- Homes rented but not occupied: 129
    --- Homes for sale: 380
    --- Homes sold, but not occupied: 182
    --- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 6,904
    --- Homes for migrant workers: 0
    --- Other vacant homes: 1,590

    Alaska’s mountainous Mat-Su between Anchorage and Denali is the size of West Virginia. The population in the borough has grown significantly in recent years, outpacing the rest of the state, and it is the second most populous borough in Alaska. Its housing prices are nearly a third of those in nearby Anchorage, appealing to commuters. The housing market is on an upswing, although it is easily affected by factors from from gas prices to bad weather and wildfires.

  • Arizona: Navajo County

    - Total homes in county: 58,164
    - Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 23,879 (41.1% of total homes)
    --- Homes for rent: 813
    --- Homes rented but not occupied: 0
    --- Homes for sale: 1,508
    --- Homes sold, but not occupied: 171
    --- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 17,803
    --- Homes for migrant workers: 25
    --- Other vacant homes: 3,559

    More than 40% of homes are vacant in Arizona’s Navajo County, which has been grappling with the economic fallout from the closure of the Kayenta Coal Mine and the Cholla Power Plant. Shutdown of the mine meant the loss of 300 jobs and a $1.6 million annual cut to county revenue, slashing funds available for law enforcement, emergency services, and teachers’ paychecks, and it slowed the recording real estate transactions, making closings difficult.

  • Arkansas: Garland County

    - Total homes in county: 51,025
    - Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 10,618 (20.8% of total homes)
    --- Homes for rent: 1,718
    --- Homes rented but not occupied: 547
    --- Homes for sale: 478
    --- Homes sold, but not occupied: 871
    --- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 5,717
    --- Homes for migrant workers: 0
    --- Other vacant homes: 1,287

    Garland County in Arkansas is home to rugged landscapes, the heavily forested Ouachita Mountains and Hot Springs National Park. Recreation and tourism are mainstays of the county’s economy, bringing in tens of millions of dollars in revenues and creating thousands of jobs. But the county’s opioid crisis is the worst in Arkansas, and nearly 1 in 5 people lives in poverty.

  • California: Nevada County

    - Total homes in county: 54,264
    - Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 12,817 (23.6% of total homes)
    --- Homes for rent: 120
    --- Homes rented but not occupied: 239
    --- Homes for sale: 512
    --- Homes sold, but not occupied: 477
    --- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 10,272
    --- Homes for migrant workers: 0
    --- Other vacant homes: 1,197

    California’s mountainous Nevada County lay at the heart of the 1848 gold rush that drew thousands of miners. Geologists estimate as much as 80% of the lode remains, and the area still attracts modern-day gold panners. Economists say costs in the area leave more and more people unable to pay rising rents. The population is stagnant, and about a quarter of county residents leave to find work.

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  • Colorado: Pueblo County

    - Total homes in county: 71,451
    - Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 6,497 (9.1% of total homes)
    --- Homes for rent: 476
    --- Homes rented but not occupied: 0
    --- Homes for sale: 672
    --- Homes sold, but not occupied: 539
    --- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 871
    --- Homes for migrant workers: 155
    --- Other vacant homes: 3,784

    Pueblo County has long been considered an affordable alternative to the pricey Denver area, but with its explosive growth in recent years, the cost of living is on the rise. An increase in population has driven up demand for goods and services, leading to higher prices. The mayor recently said the booming local economy has led to increasing rents and housing costs.

  • Connecticut: Litchfield County

    - Total homes in county: 88,402
    - Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 14,804 (16.7% of total homes)
    --- Homes for rent: 1,212
    --- Homes rented but not occupied: 0
    --- Homes for sale: 780
    --- Homes sold, but not occupied: 826
    --- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 7,428
    --- Homes for migrant workers: 0
    --- Other vacant homes: 4,558

    Across Connecticut, residential real estate is still recovering from the recession of a decade ago, and less desirable residences can sit on the market for months. But this past summer, despite an overall decline in single-family home sales statewide, Litchfield saw a strong percentage gain. Recent data called it a “pocket of affordability” for homebuyers.

  • Delaware: Sussex County

    - Total homes in county: 141,092
    - Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 47,613 (33.7% of total homes)
    --- Homes for rent: 1,110
    --- Homes rented but not occupied: 473
    --- Homes for sale: 1,569
    --- Homes sold, but not occupied: 733
    --- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 38,279
    --- Homes for migrant workers: 0
    --- Other vacant homes: 5,449

    Sussex County is largely rural, with Atlantic Ocean beaches popular among summer tourists. Some seasonal visitors buy vacation homes that sit vacant for much of the year. More broadly, with a third of its homes unoccupied, Sussex County is seeing increasing housing costs and a lack of affordable rental units.

  • Florida: Monroe County

    - Total homes in county: 53,457
    - Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 22,095 (41.3% of total homes)
    --- Homes for rent: 3,094
    --- Homes rented but not occupied: 94
    --- Homes for sale: 220
    --- Homes sold, but not occupied: 399
    --- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 14,064
    --- Homes for migrant workers: 0
    --- Other vacant homes: 4,224

    Home to the Florida Keys, Monroe County has been struggling to maintain its critical tourism industry amid environmental threats and hurricane scares that keep visitors away. Workforce housing was already scarce with housing costs rising for years. But Hurricane Irma in 2017 hit hard, destroying or damaging more than 4,000 homes throughout the Keys and leaving little affordable rentals. Rents in Key West have doubled in less than a decade, although the housing strains get a little less dire the further one gets up the 120-mile island chain.

  • Georgia: Richmond County

    - Total homes in county: 89,098
    - Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 18,564 (20.8% of total homes)
    --- Homes for rent: 5,216
    --- Homes rented but not occupied: 388
    --- Homes for sale: 1,883
    --- Homes sold, but not occupied: 376
    --- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 1,218
    --- Homes for migrant workers: 0
    --- Other vacant homes: 9,483

    In Richmond County, Ga., which includes the city of Augusta, 1 in 5 houses is vacant. Vacant homes and apartments are a drag on its real estate market, pulling prices down.

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