Just a snapshot for those that still think things are going so swimmingly in Longmont. Below is a map (which should automatically update) of foreclosures throughout the city. The first week I started tracking these was April 11th, which is why Blue (the first color I used) is predominant, as it depicts new and old foreclosures in that newspaper section. Afterwards, the other colors are just the new additions by week.
View Longmont Foreclosures in a larger map
In the KEY below, you can see new and total entries by week. These are in the Saturday Longmont Times-Call in the Classifieds D section, and these take up most of the Classifieds section. It appears that these foreclosures must run for five (5) consecutive weeks in the paper. Other information included in these foreclosures (which I did not include here) are the names of the people that are on the deeds, the amount originally loaned, the loan balance, and the date of auction.
Blue= 4/11/09 16 new entries (41 total)
Red= 4/18/09 20 new entries (55 total)
Green= 4/25/09 8 new entries (47 total)
Yellow= 5/2/09 9 new entries (48 total)
I waited until I had a few weeks of data to see trends before posting this map and these numbers. One thing to keep in mind when looking at the total numbers when 50 or so don’t seem so bad – there are surely many more, they’ve just run out their 5 week requirement to be published in the paper. While things peaked on 4/18/09, the new and total numbers are fairly stable and the total number is actually higher than the first tracking week of 4/11/09.
One troubling thing when looking deeper into the foreclosures is the differences between the original loan and the amount owed. No doubt there are always seconds and lines of credit taken out on a home when it’s appreciating. But many of these homes were bought (or refinanced) when values were already sliding, so enough appreciation to get a second appears unlikely. Some loans were short term and some looked like no payments were ever made at all. Still others could have been loans over 100% of the homes value.
Stealing from the future
Just a hypothetical, philosophical question here: how is taking out several thousand dollars on a second/line of credit (some are over $20k), and then just walking away not stealing? Is it really any surprise that banks are failing all over the country given this situation? Many were forced into dealing in these sub-prime mortgages or face sanctions from the government (thanks to Barney Frank and friends), and lent money to people with income/debt ratios that were set-ups for failure – for the lender and borrower – and we all are paying for it, and will for decades.
Cold hard truths
Not everyone can buy or own a home. Putting someone into a home they can’t afford, instead of renting permanently or temporarily to save money, is not doing that person a favor. In every one of these foreclosure notices is a story; many paid several thousand dollars (again, some over $20k) lowering their balance, only to lose their home (and all the money they paid into it) trying to keep their word on a loan.
Meanwhile, while these people are struggling to hold on (some surely are still in these homes), the City of Longmont is playing tiddlywinks with more people who can’t afford homes and throwing money at affordable housing programs. Great, more future failure. If the next fact doesn’t bother you, nothing will: In a recent City Council meeting, it was revealed that some homes in the affordable housing program have gone into foreclosure. But that’s not all – not only did you (if you’re a taxpayer) help fund getting someone into one of these homes, some of these people got out seconds/lines of credit, trashed the house, left it, and took the money from the second/line of credit with them – which you will also help fund. Taking it in the front end, and the back.
End affordable housing
This is surely not going to make me popular, but someone has to say it.
Longmont should temporarily (or better yet, permanently) end all funding in its budget for affordable housing. First, help, where possible, people in foreclosure, if they are suitable candidates – in other words, can they keep up payments? Second, (and this is after foreclosure candidates are taken care of) look into affordable renting assistance. Isn’t the overall goal to get people off of the streets and into warm places? That doesn’t necessarily mean home ownership, and it’s a mistake (in my opinion) to make that risky leap, for the city and the potential affordable housing candidate.
Rights, not guarantees
The Declaration of Independence says you have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” – which was actually a tweak on a passage from the Virginia Declaration of Rights‘ “the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety” – which itself was a tweak on John Locke‘s “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions“. These are rights, not guarantees, not promises, and definitely not endowed by a government entity like some program that gives away breaks on homes at the expense of others (taxpayers in this case). This is not to say government can’t help in these situations, it can and should. But it needs to do it smarter and differently.
I’m going to disagree with someone I rarely disagree with, Councilmember Mary Blue, who I believe is perhaps one of the best councilmembers we currently have. She made a statement about not being able to tell the difference between the affordable homes, the Habitat for Humanity homes, and the regular homes in her neighborhood. Ironically, a couple of weeks before she said this during a council meeting, a friend of mine who lives in the same neighborhood painted a completely different picture – that the ratio of these homes is too high, that some bigger homes are wedged and surrounded by these smaller homes that stick out and bring down home values making it nearly impossible to sell – regardless of the market. Some of these homes have also been abandoned. Whatever positives came from these homes was apparently only temporary.
That is one but one example of this failed system, as is the foreclosure map above, and you probably are aware of stories in your own neighborhood along these lines. People can point blame in whichever direction that helps make their own personal points: banks, sub-prime lenders, borrowers, over-regulation, under-regulation, unemployment, or bad luck. For more than one reason, my pick is bad government, whether elected or appointed bureaucrats, nationally and locally. What’s being done nationally and locally is not helping, only exacerbating and extending the misery.
You’ve heard of pro/anti/smart growth, this isn’t about big/small government, it’s about smart government. Currently, ours isn’t very.