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Rockford finishes 10th year of housing contraction

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Rockford finishes 10th year of housing contraction

The number of permits taken out in 2017 to demolish homes in the city of Rockford outpaced the number of permits taken out for new houses for the 10th straight year – and the gap widened.

According to the Rockford building department, there were a record 171 permits taken out to demolish homes in the city. It marked the fourth straight year that demolition permits topped 100 in Rockford.

On the other hand, builders took out just 29 new residential permits. That was down from 40 in 2016.

The city of Rockford hasn’t had more homes built than torn down since 2007, just as the Great Recession was destroying the economy nationwide, when 157 new homes were built versus 66 demolitions.

The problem here isn’t the rising number of demolitions. That’s a good thing. City officials back in the early 2000s realized that the city had an aging housing stock and planned to be more aggressive in clearing out crumbling houses.

Unfortunately, the recession caused thousands of residents to abandon properties, making a dire situation worse. City officials estimate there remain 5,400. While that number is alarming, it marks significant progress from 2010 when there 8,930 vacant houses, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

The demolitions have altered Rockford’s aging housing mix – slightly. The census bureau estimates housing age through its American Community Survey. Here’s a look at Rockford’s housing stock in 2010 versus 2016 – the most recent available estimates. In 2010, 66.7 percent of Rockford’s houses had been built before 1970. As of 2016, that had dropped to 63.3%.

Years built

2010 (Pct.)

2016 (Pct.)

Built before 1940



Built from 1940-1949



Built from 1950-1959



Built from 1960-1969



Built from 1970-1979



Built from 1980-1989



Built from 1990-1999



Built from 2000-2009



Built from 2010 on



The real problem remains the lack of demand for new houses in the city. As long as the number of homes being torn down outpaces the number of new houses being built, it will be impossible to tackle Rockford’s stubbornly high property tax rates. The taxing bodies in Winnebago County do have tax caps. That limits how much more they can ask from taxpayers. But they do continue to ask for more and if you have a shrinking number of homeowners then the burden on those homeowners will continue to rise.

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