Crowdsourced map: Vacant properties in Minneapolis

There were nearly 700 vacant or condemned properties logged by the Minneapolis Vacant Building Registration Program in its most recent published list (PDF). Most of the city’s neighborhoods have vacant property counts in the single digits. The North Minneapolis neighborhood of Jordan has the highest count, at 101.

I’ve mapped every vacant or condemned property in Minneapolis and now I need your help. Have something you want to say about a property near where you live? We’ll add it to the map. Just use the simple form posted below.

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Comments (14)

  1. Submitted by Kassie Church on 04/20/2011 - 09:11 am.

    Perfect. Let’s map the properties so the people who go in and gut properties for copper and architectural treasures don’t have to search themselves, they can just look at the map. I don’t believe I’ll be helping out with this project.

  2. Submitted by Joseph Skar on 04/20/2011 - 09:14 am.

    What are you going to do with the new information? As a homeowner in the depressed housing market that is Minneapolis, I don’t think I want to draw additional attention to vacant properties in my neighborhood.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/20/2011 - 09:23 am.


    From a policy-making perspective, I’m not at all sure what the map actually shows us beyond (perhaps) the concentration of poverty in one region of the city. Mostly, I have lots more questions.

    Why so many in some areas, but not others? My neighborhood has only 3. The neighborhood next door only 2. Half a mile south, there are a dozen. Half a mile south of that, there are several dozen. What explains the distribution? Poverty? Ethnicity? Foreclosure? Age? Various combination(s)? Is this something that’s within the city’s purview and power to do anything about? Is it simply “the free market” at work? Is it some perverse result of zoning/mortgage policies from either private or public sector? All or none of the above?

    I don’t know that it will happen, but I’d love to see this addressed by some knowledgeable people from both city agencies and the private sector who are familiar with the area and its history.

    I live in a house that could easily have been one of the red dots. It was vacant and foreclosed, then rehabbed by the city as part of neighborhood revitalization. That’s expensive enough that the city obviously can’t afford to do it with every vacant property, and house values have continued to decline anyway (mine has lost 25% of its value since I bought it in June, 2009), so neighborhood revitalization’s costs, in that form, at least, may be more than the city can bear, especially with the anti-urban bias of the current legislature in regard to LGA funds and other areas.

    It’s either a cause for legitimate concern, or an untapped opportunity for someone or some organization. Perhaps both.

  4. Submitted by Jeff Severns Guntzel on 04/20/2011 - 10:06 am.

    Kassie: Any industrious copper thieves plugging “vacant properties in Minneapolis” into Google will find the city source file for this map first. It’s public data.

    Joseph: The information will be added to the bubble that pops up when you click on a property marker. In posting any info shared, I’ll use the same discretion we use when moderating comments here.

    Ray: Thank you for your comments. Thanks to everybody who has chimed in so far. This is the kind of conversation I was hoping to start.

  5. Submitted by Gregory Lang on 04/20/2011 - 10:21 am.

    I agree with another poster who said that this map is too detailed. Something like 32XX or 32__ Address Street would have sufficed without giving scrap strippers a detailed list on where to plunder.

    According to the Minneapolis City website neighborhood profile my Howe neighborhood (in Longfellow area) has 3,000 housing units. I counted six on your list for Howe.

    That said I am less than half a mile walk to a light rail station and house valuations have going down more than 10%.

  6. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 04/20/2011 - 10:25 am.

    I have some questions. What area does the list cover? I would be interested to see the zone considered to be Minneapolis. Does St. Paul have a similar program? If so, what does that map look like? Can some of the clustering be related to population density? There are large open spots in the map, but some of those are mostly businesses (abandoned/empty business area map might also be rather dense).

    As for the implications of this map, I think it makes it easier to see patterns. At least once some variables, such as density, are taken into consideration. This is the sort of thing that the legislature should be looking at as they supposedly wrangle with issues related to the economy and jobs. I would imagine that this map will overlay with local joblessness. Unfortunately, it appears the legislature is busier making it easier to build coal mines in low density areas with fewer people who need jobs to pay mortgages (or pay for food, transportation, healthcare, etc.). Even if one was to justify trading the environment for jobs, this sort of move will have little impact in the short term and long-term negative environmental (and possibly economic) implications. People that lose their homes are not in the position to move to where the jobs are simply because they can’t afford to invest in new housing and moving expenses. More people need jobs in the high density areas, so more needs to be invested in those places to attract jobs, whether it means building business parks, or simply making the neighborhoods look like a place where a business owner would know that they would have a good source of employees, customers, and safety.

  7. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 04/20/2011 - 01:08 pm.

    The value of making public this kind of information facilitates discussion and informs policy, and in this way does a great net good even when you take into account the significant number of Minnpost readers who are, apparently, copper thieves.

  8. Submitted by David Peterson on 04/20/2011 - 01:45 pm.

    Note to self:

    1.)Start world’s first internet savvy copper thieving operation.
    2.) ???
    3.) Profit

    In reality, as a S Minneapolis resident, I am not surprised by this map. It is sad though that is looks a lot more like Detroit than Denver. Many MPLS blogs talk about how vacant properties are a melting pot for all types of criminals, be it aforementioned copper thieves, drug abusers, prostitutes, etc. The real question is, what to do with this properties. I’d say start by looking at our peer metro areas that have strong cores, Denver, Seattle, Dallas, and figure out where the disconnect starts.

  9. Submitted by Gregory Lang on 04/20/2011 - 01:45 pm.

    Minneapolis is fairly well developed so all areas are relatively high density. I am familiar with the Steward Neighborhood which is more of a mix of rental than my Longfellow/Howe neighborhood. Also the Steward housing stock tends to be older than my Howe neighborhood. Both tend to have fourty foot wide lots.

    That said, I noticed that Steward has no empty properties except of the arterials. It isn’t specifically density, the high areas or specifically the age of the housing.

    In the mid 1980’s I lived in the Phillips neighborhood. We had abandoned a lot of abandoned properties even then. A large part is a low income profile for the neighborhood.

    Related to the “mortgage meltdown” I read yesterday that “Fanny” and “Freddy” had a mandate to make more than half their mortgages to lower income so they “bottom fed” on credit scores to make the quotas.

    Surprise! lower income people tend to buy in lower income neighborhoods (when I bought in 1986 I could have bought in Phillips for half the price). This is part of it but also an awful lot of these “subprime loans” went to these lower income neighborhoods.

    Some type of metro-wide graphic map might be useful. It can get “ugly” out in the burbs, specifically new developments started around 2003 onward. This affected both low and high end new developments in the “burbs”.

    For bit of irony my was empty for almost a year before I bought it in 1986. It had grass a foot high when I moved in a quarter century ago. This was the sale of the deceased parents house where a brother and sister argued over everything related to the sale.

    I agreed to rent for a few months before the close so they could get some money and the place could be maintained. The sister noticed that I had installed a remote water meter reader display under the mailbox. She went on a “rampage” with her lawyer claiming I had “damaged” the property with this counter box (which cost me $25) and she wanted the sales contract invalidated and renegotiated because of this. I easily set her lawyer straight on this (billable hours to her so I stretched it out a bit with her lawyer)

    At he closing she was still claiming fraud and had her lawyer there. The lawyer sided with me getting her even more angry. Not really related to the subject but it shows how even minor things can hurt a house sale. Three potential buyers had been intimidated and walked away from the purchase because of this.

    Go figure! That said lower income neighborhoods are more fragile and more prone to problems during economic downturns. Added to that they received the bulk of the sub-prime “loser loans” which had a high default rate.

  10. Submitted by Joseph Skar on 04/20/2011 - 02:03 pm.

    #7 – Do you even own property in Minneapolis? I do and I think the only thing this will accomplish is to further depress home values. I actually have my home listed right now and the absolute last thing that needs to happen is the further destruction of buyer confidence. If the high property taxes, marginal schools, and crime rate relative to suburbs are not enough you want to add the fear that you maybe underwater the minute after you purchase, good call. Maybe we could post the information of the lender that foreclosed on each property as well so we can eliminate an remaining traditional home sales within the city of Minneapolis.

  11. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 04/20/2011 - 04:46 pm.

    I can understand how such information *might* cause a seller the loss of a few particularly research-savvy potential buyers, but I really don’t think this outweighs the importance of solving the problem in the long run, which involves acknowledging it.

  12. Submitted by Kassie Church on 04/20/2011 - 10:24 pm.

    Another big problem with this is it is dated and inaccurate. One of the properties listed I purposely walked by tonight. People clearly living in it, not condemned, not foreclosed on. It was sold to one of my neighbors and they are renting it out. I hope no one thinks they can squat/steal/vandal and surprises the people living there.

    Meanwhile, the condemned and empty, but not yet foreclosed on home right next door to me is not on the list. I’m super glad it isn’t. And my neighbors take down the orange signs on it. We don’t want our property values to drop further, so we don’t advertise.

  13. Submitted by Joseph Skar on 04/21/2011 - 07:53 am.

    #11 – “a few particularly research-savvy potential buyers” you mean like a REALTOR. I hope to hell that the 2.5% of purchase price would afford your Realtor the skill to use Google.

  14. Submitted by Jeff Severns Guntzel on 04/26/2011 - 08:19 am.

    Kassie: I’ll update the information when the next list comes out. The list mapped here is from March. Is it possible that the situation for these properties changed in that lag time?

    I’ll be asking them when the next list comes out and if there is sometimes a lag between the time a property is determined to be no longer vacant and when it is taken off the registry and vice versa.

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