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In Flint, 1 in 3 houses may be abandoned

May 5, 2009
The Fence which is Strutting Around, Flint MI
Image by Ian Saylor via Flickr

Yep, Michigan made the national news this week, on a Monday morning no less, as one of the top cities hit by this recession, and one of the top cities abandoned by its residents.  Woohoo Flint, MI, made the news, bad deal that it came up as one of the cities most people are fleeing.  What made the news most interesting is that Flint is one of the top areas in which homes are simply abandoned.  How does this happen?

Well, suppose people bought a home in an inflated housing market (as plenty of my friends did), and suppose the housing market crashes, which it did, then the people stuck with the house also get stuck with extra debt.  Banks have been zealous about foreclosure, after 3 months you’re out, and then no one lives in the house.  So, the breakdown in easy, numerical steps:

  1. Buy a house at a high price (and in the Detroit area, home prices have been wildly inflated, just as in CA).
  2. Lose your job during the recession.
  3. Have the value of your house drop due to recession.
  4. Not be able to make 2-3 mortgage payments.
  5. Not qualify for federal programs because you don’t have a job.  (Those mortgage programs are only for working people, which leaves out tens of thousands of Michiganders.)
  6. Have the bank dump your butt on the curb and stick a for-sale sign on the house.
  7. Now you are out of your home, the bank owns it, and the houses all the way down the block follow suit.
  8. Enter the US and Flint housing crisis, because now all the other houses on the block just lost half their property values.  Who wants to stay?

Simple, right?  Sounds like to me, but there is more to this story.  African Americans are harder hit than most communities, and auto industry workers are obviously struggling.  My partner had been working for a consulting group whose main client was Chrysler–his job ended in November 2008.

What now, you ask?  We have borrowed money from family, but we are way behind on bills.  It’s not a pretty picture, and consulting jobs are still 2-3 months out before hiring will begin.  Teaching positions are shot, the other jobs for which we are both qualified.  So, not much is left.  Guess we will join the ever-growing ranks of the unemployed who are suffering in this economy.  Does it help to not be alone in this?

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