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Cityscape: Volume 19 Number 3 | Visualizing Residential Vacancy by Length of Vacancy


The goal of Cityscape is to bring high-quality original research on housing and community development issues to scholars, government officials, and practitioners. Cityscape is open to all relevant disciplines, including architecture, consumer research, demography, economics, engineering, ethnography, finance, geography, law, planning, political science, public policy, regional science, sociology, statistics, and urban studies.

Cityscape is published three times a year by the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Volume 19, Number 3

Mark D. Shroder

Michelle P. Matuga

Visualizing Residential Vacancy by Length of Vacancy

Alexander Din

Graphic Detail

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) organize and clarify the patterns of human activities on the Earth’s surface and their interaction with each other. GIS data, in the form of maps, can quickly and powerfully convey relationships to policymakers and the public. This department of Cityscape includes maps that convey important housing or community development policy issues or solutions. If you have made such a map and are willing to share it in a future issue of Cityscape, please contact

The United States Postal Service (USPS) collects counts of occupied and vacant residential and business addresses across the United States. The counts of vacant addresses are broken down by length of vacancy. This information is useful for researchers, planners, analysts, and others concerned with vacancy issues in making informed decisions to address them. For example, communities affected by recent vacancy may require different approaches and solutions than communities affected by long-term vacancy. I demonstrate how to use a modified box plot with swarm plot, paired with a micromap, to visualize ratios of different lengths of residential vacancy compared with total residential vacancy. I developed visualizations at the census tract level for the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Core Based Statistical Area (CBSA) on a quarterly basis from the first quarter of 2012 until the first quarter of 2017.

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