by Catherine Reagor – Apr. 3, 2011
The Arizona Republic

With upkeep difficult, vacancies hurt neighbors, market

On a typical block in metro Phoenix, there’s at least one empty home, often several.

Overbuilding during the housing boom, record foreclosures during the subsequent crash and a significant drop in population growth have led to more than 100,000 vacant homes across the region, five times what was once considered normal.

With an average of three people per residence, the swath of vacant homes is equivalent to a city bigger than Chandler sitting empty.

An empty house – or a row of them – changes the character of a neighborhood and the way residents feel about where they live.

Vacancy even has a direct effect on the house itself. Without someone living in a home, weeds grow, dust collects, pipes freeze in winter, wood dries and splits in summer. Houses left vacant are easy targets for vandals, thieves and squatters. Many are eyesores with broken windows, swamplike pools and driveways littered with fliers.

On a larger scale, vacant homes can drive the entire housing market and the Arizona economy. With more houses than there are families to fill them, prices stay low. For the market to change, something has to change about the vacant homes. Until they are sold to new buyers, fixed up for new renters or even torn down, home prices won’t rebound.

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