Vacant Houses Costing Communities

April 4, 2011  |  

(AJC) — Zuspan’s suburban neighborhood is one of more than 300 throughout metro Atlanta in which the concentration of vacant housing exceeds 10 percent — a level that raises red flags among those who study neighborhood dynamics.  According to a rough but commonly accepted benchmark, in a healthy neighborhood, no more than 5 percent or 6 percent of properties will be vacant at any given time. Vacancies of 8 percent to 10 percent are cause for concern. Anything higher can send a community into a downward spiral of falling home prices, neglect, abandonment, rising crime, health problems and yet more vacancies.  “Vacant properties, especially above some minimum number, are devastating for a neighborhood,” said Alan Mallach, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan research institute. Those like Zuspan who remain, he said, are likely to suffer “an enormous loss of value, an enormous loss of wealth.”

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