On July 23, Toledo Free Press reported online that AOL Real Estate ranked Toledo the “10th Emptiest City” in the United States. The list cited rental and homeowner property vacancy rates. Toledo’s 11.5 percent rental vacancy rate and 3.8 percent homeowner vacancy rate landed the city behind Orlando, No. 1 on the list, followed by Dayton, Memphis, Tenn., Detroit, Richmond, Va., Las Vegas, Atlanta, Tampa, Fla. and Houston.
That vacancy rates stands despite tearing down houses at a rate of about 300 a year.
So, is the Glass City half empty or half full?
In 1970, this area was home to about 383,800. The 2010 census recorded 287,208 residents.
What went wrong? The combination of over-reliance on the auto industry, underdevelopment of the waterfront and a business community that ceded leadership to media politicians has proven disastrous.
Toledo Free Press reporter Caitlin McGlade quoted Anna Mills, the president of the Toledo Real Estate Investment Association, as saying the market is changing from homeowners to renters.
“I find that the people I used to be selling houses to are now renting from me,” Mills said.
People are more likely to rent properties to avoid being tied down to a given place, so they are free to take off to wherever the jobs are.
Mills also credited Toledo’s shrinking population to capital gain taxes — she said she hasn’t sold any of her rentals because of the taxes she’d have to pay — and local taxes.
“And people wonder why we’re losing people and then we’ve got seven levies on the property tax?” Mills said.
For Realtors and a market that depend on people with money to spend, it is increasingly difficult to express optimism. I described the situation to a friend as a “buyer’s market,” and he responded, “Only if you’re buying a wrecking ball or a moving van.”
Toledo’s inclusion on this list must serve as a wake-up call to our community. If we choose to sleepwalk through this critical challenge, we stand to lose everything. Only by steadfastly maintaining that there is still potential to fill that glass — and acting on that potential by pushing our business leaders to take back the reins of investment and development — can we ever hope to move down and off lists such as these.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.