Best-Case Scenario

23 Nov 2021


Erie, in the far northwest corner of Pennsylvania, holds a few unwanted titles. It is home to the poorest zip code (16501) in the entire United States — the median income in 2019 was just $10,874. It has been declared “the worst city for Black Americans” based on racial economic disparities — and 16% of its residents are African American. The city’s population is around 95,000, about 30% below its 1960 peak. Nearly 30% of the remaining residents live below the poverty line. A 2016 comprehensive plan found 4,700 vacant housing units; half of the city’s residential properties were on blocks where at least one nearby property was “visibly distressed.” Acres of commercial and industrial sites were empty.

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