Who owns an abandoned house?

Abandoned Homes, Crime and the Economy

A vacant property often attracts a criminal element.
A vacant property often attracts a criminal element.

Oftentimes homes that are now unoccupied and abandoned were once parts of the more posh parts of a city. For instance, in 2010, the city of Detroit razed about 3,000 homes, including one that was the childhood home to former presidential candidate and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Detroit took advantage of a $20 million federal funding incentive as a part of the economic stimulus package to get rid of structures that have been abandoned for years. The effort is also part of a plan to have the number of homes in Detroit reflect its changing population figures [source: Kellogg].

Although 3,000 homes might seem like a lot, the city estimates that there are actually about 90,000 abandoned homes and lots in the city [source: Kellogg]. While cities such as Detroit are moving to decrease their number of abandoned homes, there remains much work to be done to rid areas of vacant properties and the increased crime rates that accompany them.

Why does crime seem to go hand in hand with abandoned homes? Drug users frequently seek out abandoned homes to squat in. Crimes that are often associated with drug use and drugs sales such as burglary, robbery, rape and even murder occur more frequently in places where there are abandoned homes according to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN.) In addition to crime, other dangers that put entire neighborhoods at risk also result in people living in abandoned houses. Transients looking for shelter can sometimes die in the property as a result of building a makeshift fire for warmth.

Like Detroit, other U.S. cities are experiencing increased foreclosure rates and the higher crime rates that follow. In Queens, New York, crime dramatically rose between 2006 and 2008 mostly in neighborhoods that had a heightened home foreclosure rate. In 2008, neighborhoods in Queens that had high foreclosure rates had an average of 424 more murders, robberies, burglaries and auto thefts than in areas with lower foreclosure rates -- an increase of about 150 percent since 2006 [source: Hirshon].

You might think that crime rates would be lower in wealthy neighborhoods where homes have been foreclosed and then abandoned -- but that's not always the case. The average income of people living in the neighborhoods doesn't seem to factor into crime statistics. Both neighborhoods with wealthy and poor families experienced similar crimes rates when home vacancies increased [source:Hirshon].