Census: Albert Lea has 636 vacant houses

Published 9:58 am Friday, May 20, 2011

More than 600 of Albert Lea’s housing units were listed as vacant in 2010, according to new U.S. Census numbers released last week.

The numbers state that of 8,410 total housing units in the city, 7,774 were listed as occupied and 636 were listed as vacant.

While the number of total housing units increased during the last 10 years, so has the number of vacant homes. In fact, they increased by almost the same number.

Email newsletter signup

In 2000, there were 8,133 total housing units, with 7,785 listed as occupied and 348 listed as vacant.

The total number of housing units increased by 277, while the number of vacancies increased by 288 since 2000.

Albert Lea Housing and Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Jon Ford said the numbers are concerning.

Ford said it used to be that 70 percent of homes on the market were occupied; now that trend is that 70 percent of homes on the market are vacant. Most of that is due to foreclosure.

He said according to Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office sale data, there were more than 400 residential foreclosures in Freeborn County from 2008 to 2010. The high point was in 2009 with about 160 foreclosures.

Foreclosures can also explain the increase in the number of renter-occupied units that Albert Lea saw from 2000 to 2010.

According to the census numbers, in 2000 about 73 percent of the housing units were owner-occupied and 27 percent were renter-occupied.

In 2010, about 70 percent of the housing units were owner-occupied and 30 percent were renter-occupied. That’s a 3 percent increase in the number of renter-occupied units.

He said once foreclosures happen, many of the people affected start renting. Some started doubling up in homes with other families, which in turn puts a bigger strain on the housing unit.

Ford said another factor is the city’s decrease in population — Albert Lea decreased from 18,363 people in 2000 to 18,016 in 2010 — which in turn translates into a decrease in demand. Then throw in the mix the issue of foreclosures.

“We’ve hit the perfect storm it seems like in the last few years,” Ford said.

Freeborn County as a whole also saw an increase of 414 vacant units from 2000 to 2010.

Ford said he anticipated that as the economy improves, these numbers will improve.

According to census numbers, the average household size of the owner-occupied units in Albert Lea is 2.32 people. The average household size of the renter-occupied units is 2.06 people.