Saturday, April 05, 2008

Dog Days In Denver

This stuff really is fascinating.

For hundreds of homeowners in this mostly middle-class corner of Denver — and an estimated 1.2 million more nationwide — the wave of foreclosures battering U.S. financial markets is quickly unraveling the American dream. Those who have lost homes here describe seeing their lives crumble into anxiety and embarrassment. Many leave for cheap apartments or rooms with relatives, a trend that is tightening the market for affordable housing.

This small corner of the Mile High City represents an extreme example of how foreclosures are transforming lives and neighborhoods. On some blocks, as many as one-third of the residents have lost their homes, making this one of the worst hotspots in a city that was among the first to feel the pinch of the foreclosure crisis. Many houses here remain empty, bank lockboxes on the front doors.

The foreclosure epidemic has swept so quickly through this part of Denver that in less than two years, lenders took action on 919 of the roughly 8,000 properties here, according to city records. Their owners defaulted on more than $171 million in mortgages they had used to buy their way out of apartments and into cul-de-sacs. Many were buying homes for the first time, in what seemed the most affordable of the city's new subdivisions. They paid their way with easy credit — sometimes secured from aggressive lenders who appeared to look past the checkered credit histories and unstable jobs of some of their customers. Ultimately, many of the buyers couldn't afford their mortgages.

Unless municipalities are prepared to take elaborate and sustained measures, some of these neighborhoods are going to be destroyed. Abandoned homes and lots, though a common feature of my neighborhood, really create neighborhood problems. And much contemporary suburban construction isn't exactly especially high quality. Looters, squatters, weekend partyers,...