They are the most visible face of recession in Stanislaus County.
And there are a lot of them.
Recently released vacancy statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show how prevalent empty homes have become. In some Modesto neighborhoods, nearly one in five housing units were vacant from 2005 through 2009.
In Patterson, Newman and Hickman, about one in eight homes were empty.
"It mainly has to do with the economy," said Deborah Dawson, whose northwest Modesto neighborhood — known as Highway Village — had the county's highest vacancy rate, 19.5 percent. "If you can't work, you can't pay your mortgage. So most people either get foreclosed on or they end up just leaving because they have no choice."
Some abandoned houses become eyesores and community headaches.
"It was a mess," John McLaughlin said about the empty home next to his onStrivens Avenue in Highway Village.
The former owners had refinanced the 608-square-foot, two-bedroom house for more than $150,000 in 2007. But its value plummeted, they vacated, and the 62-year-old home resold last fall for $44,000.
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