The Twin Cities: a national leader in — vacant housing?

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Twin Citians are a proud bunch. We love to profess that our cities are a cut above just about any other cluster on the U.S. map. But there are towns that are beating out Minneapolis-St. Paul in one major and meaningful area: For the first time in more than 20 years, cities like St. Louis; Birmingham, Ala.; Houston; Pittsburgh — cities that have struggled economically over the last decade and longer — now boast a lower home vacancy rate than the Twin Cities. And none of those struggling cities have seen their home vacancy rates triple since 2004. That honor goes to Minneapolis-St. Paul.

According to the most recent Census Bureau data, Minneapolis-St. Paul’s home vacancy rate rose to 3.2 percent at the end of 2007. That’s a major leap for a region whose vacancy rate hovered at around one percent for more than two decades. In 2000 the Twin Cities had a meager vacancy rate of 0.2 percent.

In fact, when it comes to vacancy rates, we’re now inching our way upward, closer to Phoenix. That Sun Belt city has a 3.7 vacancy rate (up from 1.6 in 2004), and recently posted the third-highest price decline in the nation, just behind Miami and Las Vegas.

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