Housing Vacancy and Hypervacant Neighborhoods: Uneven Recovery after the U.S. Foreclosure Crisis


We examine neighborhood housing vacancy patterns in the largest 200 metropolitan areas from 2012 to 2019, focusing especially on Sunbelt and Rustbelt metros, both hit hard by the 2007–2011 foreclosure crisis. We pay special attention to neighborhood “hypervacancy,” where large amounts of long-term vacant housing are most likely to impose negative impacts. We find that, in the Sunbelt, hypervacant tracts declined over the 2012 to 2019 period, while they remained constant in Rustbelt metros. Despite this, the results show that hypervacant neighborhoods do exist in the Sunbelt, especially in slower-growth metros. We find that hypervacancy is heavily racialized; hypervacant tracts tend to have relatively large Black and Latinx populations. Regressions show that hypervacancy is shaped by preexisting urban disparities as well as metropolitan housing market strength. After controlling for metropolitan growth and economic factors, whether a city is located in the Sunbelt or the Rustbelt is not found to have an independent effect on the persistence of hypervacancy. There are, in fact, weak-growth metros in both the Sunbelt and the Rustbelt, and they tend to have high levels of vacancy and hypervacancy. We discuss the implications of these findings for policy and practice in cities struggling with hypervacancy.

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