Toll of foreclosures in Kansas City finally told

Kansas City knew it had a bad problem with vacant homes, but not this bad.

The number of vacant homes in Kansas City has jumped to as high as 12,000 — leaving some urban-core neighborhoods a quarter empty.

Since 2007, vacancies have jumped nearly 20 percent.

That dire picture is painted by new estimates from a senior economist at Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City who used data from the U.S. Postal Service and city Water Department, as of last September, to estimate the city’s abandoned structures and vacant lots.

Like many big cities, Kansas City has long struggled with caring for and restoring vacant homes and lots, a problem compounded by the nation’s deep economic downturn. But the new estimate outstrips any previous portrayal of the city’s vacant-property problem.

“The hole in the urban core is deeper and bigger than even I thought it was,” Mayor Mark Funkhouser said at a recent meeting of city officials on the problem of vacant homes.

“It’s like an ocean, and we’re trying various sizes and types of teaspoons to bail it out.”

Nonetheless, the city is embarking on new efforts and hopes soon that the state legislature will help.

It’s difficult to know the exact number of vacant homes. Kelly Edmiston, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City estimated that the number of vacant residential properties climbed to nearly 10,894 in 2010.

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