Banks are bad neighbors

If you listen to the media, now is the time for people who had been shut out of the housing market not only to buy, but to get almost anything they want at a reasonable price.

Guess again, my gullible ones.  While that should be the case, the fact is that most of the vacant houses now peppering the suburbs of the Chicago area are owned by banks, and those banks are lousy neighbors.

First problem — the one that most people do know about — is that banks just aren’t lending.  But the question never seems to be asked: what happens to those foreclosed houses that no one can buy because they can’t get a mortgage?

Answer: they rot for years while the banks drag their heels on paperwork.  Once they are completely nonviable they are sold to people who have enough money to pay cash, tear the houses down, and build monstrous McMansions in their places.  In short, they are replacing the nonviable with the unsellable.  But nobody cares, because the taxes on those unsellable McMansions are stratospheric, and the builders pay the taxes sometimes for years without anyone actually living in the house…until they declare bankruptcy and the McMansions are foreclosed and the whole process starts all over again.

It’s the same thing that was going on during the housing bubble.  To put it simply, towns all over the area are slowly being bought by a few rich people instead of a lot of non-rich people who could have actually lived in them, cared for them, been part of the community for decades and paid taxes.

And what of the rest of the vacant houses — the ones that sit empty while the banks drag their heels for years on the paperwork?  Like I just said, they are rotting, attracting rodents and human vermin, causing eyesores and hazards and already-plunging property values to plunge even further.  And the town governments are doing nothing to stop it because heck, they’re enjoying the short-term reward of property taxes.

This is Bush’s bail-out at work, folks.  I guess a Teabagger would call it the “free market” and the “American way” — of course unless they had already called it “Obama’s bail-out,” (which they undoubtedly would do),  in which case it would be “socialism.”  Lovely, isn’t it.  Not very helpful, either.

I think a national discussion needs to be opened about who is benefiting from all these vacant houses, and who is not.  The media have dropped the ball on this one, so let’s start the talk ourselves.  It may be the only way to bring the truth out into the open and, perhaps, get some changes made.

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