Empty Homes

Empty Homes

Today, several American cities have an outsized number of abandoned and vacant properties. For example, Gary, Indiana, has 25,000 vacant homes, covering over 50 percent of available homes; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has 40,000 vacant lots; and Detroit, Michigan, has more than 120,000 homes and 21 square miles of vacant land in 2017. Detroit’s abandoned properties, if combined, would be the size of Manhattan. Certain cities including Baltimore, Maryland, Dayton, Ohio, St. Louis, Missouri, Trenton, New Jersey, and Buffalo, New York, have entered a state of hypervacancy (source).

In the City of Los Angeles, it has been estimated there are between 40,000 and 100,000 empty homes, about 3-7% of the total housing supply. In 2019, several members of the L.A. City Council proposed developing a vacant homes penalty in L.A. Their motion asks city departments to determine how many vacant homes there are in Los Angeles and why they remain vacant, though the study is yet to be completed. San Diego County leaders are also considering a vacancy tax on homes. Voters in Oakland passed a tax on vacant land in November of 2018. And San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors may place a tax on empty storefronts before voters in March 2020.


  • UCLA Housing Innovation Collaborative
  • SAJE Housing Innovation Collaborative

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