Apr 3, 2008

On Grasping the Magnitude of the Housing and Credit Crises

The crises in the credit and housing markets can seem like abstract concepts unless, for example, your house is in foreclosure or you lost your job processing mortgages. I came across a website called Realty Trac, however, that you can use to map the foreclosures in your neighborhood.

I mapped a section of the 43623 zip code in West Toledo, which is a middle-to-upper-middle class neighborhood near the Franklin Park Mall. Houses range between $100,000 and $200,000 in this area, putting it slightly above average for the region. In the above zip code there are currently 763 houses in various stages of foreclosure, and since the 2000 Census listed 5,844 houses in 43623, over 13 percent of homeowners in this fairly affluent area have the specter of foreclosure hanging above their heads.

This is about double the rate for the entire city of Toledo, which by the Realty Trac count boasts some 5,324 houses in various states of foreclosure. This makes sense, since the rates of home ownership in some areas of the city are much lower.

On a walk down a street of the 43623 zip code, then, a pedestrian is likely to encounter a house facing foreclosure about once every seventh property. Some of these folks will likely find some way to save their homes, of course, but this is still a lot of struggling people.

And this will be a lot of vacant bank-owned properties if the situation continues to deteriorate or - God forbid - we move from a recession to a full-blown depression akin to those that commenced in the years 1873, 1893, and 1929. I imagine that being surrounded by empty houses will not bode well for one's ability to use home equity as a store of wealth.

Well, it sure is a good thing that American leaders have figured out how to prevent those pesky economic catastrophes, isn't it? Whenever I bring up the subject of the possibility of an epic depression, my sober-minded audiences are quick to remind me that periods like the Great Depression are in the distant past, and that I need not worry about selling my house and checking out low-priced real estate Branson.

I'm glad I have such even-keeled pals to keep me from thinking such crazy thoughts!


dr-exmedic said...

Well, it sure is a good thing that American leaders have figured out how to prevent those pesky economic catastrophes, isn't it?
Funny how terrible government is at fixing the vagaries of the market, isn't it? Why do we still expect them to do anything other than screw it up?

If anything, keeping their hands off things might actually stabilize things. If the government quit bailing out people who made bad decisions (think Bear Sterns), then maybe people would be a little more cautious.

Carol said...


I have recently spent quite a bit of time in Columbus dealing with just this issue. I have heard that our current economic situation is due to a myriad of reasons - none of which are irresponsible policies, irresponsible spending, or a lack of attention to the economy in general.

The most depressing area of Toledo is currently the 43612 and 43613 zip codes. There is such a huge number of empty homes, with most in foreclosure or pre-foreclosure, that it is heartbreaking.

The programs being offered to help people keep their homes is merely akin to the little boy putting his finger in the dike. The leak will only move to another spot. Our elected leaders fail to recognize that if we don't do everything possible to create a business friendly atmosphere, do all we can to encourage growth and development and then stick to our word, then we are doomed to continue to fail.

No jobs + no income = inability to pay. And that doesn't matter if it's a $35,000 house or a $350,000 house.

We have a problem. A HUGE problem. But our elected leaders are certainly not being realistic about the needed "fix" to turn it around. Instead we're going to feel good about flowers, dog parks and walking paths. And soon those will be empty, too.