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Vacant Properties: Growing Number Increases Communities' Costs and Challenges

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2011
102 pages
This Government Accountability Office (GAO) report examines vacant and unattended residential properties in nine U.S. cities.
This report addresses trends in the number of vacant properties and how they relate to the recent increase in foreclosures; the types of costs that vacant properties create and who bears the responsibility for these properties and their costs; and State and local government strategies for addressing vacant properties and the Federal role in assisting these efforts. Findings indicates that non-seasonal vacant properties have increased 51 percent nationally from nearly 7 million in 2000 to 10 million in April 2010, with 10 States seeing increases of 70 percent or more. High foreclosure rates have contributed to the additional vacancies. Population declines in certain cities and high unemployment also may have contributed to increased vacancies. In 2010, the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) reimbursed servicers or vendors over $953 million for property maintenance costs. Some studies find that vacant foreclosed properties may have reduced prices of nearby homes by $8,600 to $17,000 per property in specific cities. Cities and States are implementing a variety of strategies to minimize the negative impacts of vacant properties but face many challenges. Data were collected in nine localities that were selected based on high vacancy and foreclosure rates, geographic location, economic conditions, and foreclosure processes: Baltimore, Maryland; Cape Coral, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Indianapolis, Indiana; Indio, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Tucson, Arizona. This report analyzes Census Bureau vacancy data and data on property maintenance costs from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and two housing-related GSE.