Monday, July 7, 2008


A recent article in Atlantic Monthly showed the link between Section 8 housing and crime in Memphis, but the link between poverty and a number of social problems line up similarly.

For instance, foreclosures.

Polar Donkey sent me this great (and I use that term loosely) map of 2007 foreclosures. The little blue dots are foreclosures — there were more than 8,000 in Memphis last year — and median household income is delineated by color. Bright red represents $0 - $13,627 a year; dark orange is up to about $25,000 a year, and light orange is up to just over $35,000 a year. The three shades of greens go from $61,783 to $179,542.

(If you're wondering about that fire engine red spot in the lower right area inside the loop, it's the University of Memphis.)

And, though foreclosures are happening everywhere, regardless of income, ours seem to be clustered in the orangy areas. Predatory lending, much?

Of course, it's not just us.

In an effort to turn the tide in Fairfax, Virginia, the government is looking at foreclosed properties as affordable housing. Fairfax County has committed to spending $10 million on as many as 200 foreclosed properties. Under the program, they'll buy some homes outright, but will also help middle class families buy others through subsidized loans.

And here's a fun fact from The Christian Science Monitor:

"Some 44.5 million homes in the US now stand next to an empty house, resulting in a drop of at least $5,000 in property value per house. By that calculation, a total loss of home value of $220 billion across the US can be attributed to the vacancy problem.

'This is a man-made disaster that's had more dramatic impacts on real estate markets than natural disasters [have]," says Bruce Katz, a housing analyst at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington. "In a way, we have a lot of mini-Katrinas across the country.'"

While the mortgage crisis causes blight from vacant, foreclosed homes, it also diminishes the surrounding property values. And because we have a local tax system based on property values, we ought to be concerned.

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