I came face to face with the foreclosure crisis in the flesh on a Super Shuttle ride to the Sacramento airport.
His name was Anthony, and he wore a knee brace to help with a lingering limp from an injury that caused him to lose his previous job and eventually his house.
Before I found out about that, though, I was chatting loudly —and somewhat callously in retrospect — on the phone to a reporter about why neither presidential candidate is talking much about housing or the persistent foreclosure problem.
I went on importantly about how Obama has admitted that the tepid success of the foreclosure prevention programs introduced by his administration over the past few years are one of the “failings” of his first term, failings that he acknowledged in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention.
Meanwhile, Romney’s underlying philosophy of less, not more, government intervention into free markets has limited him from saying much without angering his base. When he did state the logical application of his hands-off philosophy to the foreclosure problem (let the market bottom out on its own), he was criticized by those outside of his base — and he has to woo some of those to win the presidency.
But enough about what I told the reporter. The more important conversation came after I hung up the phone.
I was the only passenger on the shuttle so Anthony couldn’t help but hear at least my side of the conversation. When I finished the phone call, he tactfully but emotionally let me know that what I had been saying impacted him because of his own experience with foreclosure.
His back and knee were injured a few years ago, eventually causing him to lose his job. Without that income, he and his wife couldn’t keep up with their monthly mortgage payments even though they purchased a home that was originally well within their means — declining to buy in the $1 million-plus range that they were told they could afford and instead settling for a home in the $300,000 price range.
Anthony and his wife tried to work with their bank to keep the home, a process that left him referring to this major lender who will go unnamed as a “bitch.” Eventually the home was seized by the bank.
The good news is that Anthony is back on his feet again — both literally and figuratively. He was able to purchase a Super Shuttle franchise, and he and his wife have found a new place to live.
But the emotional toll of losing his home still rose quickly to the surface as Anthony recounted his story. After he dropped me off at the curb, I thought long and hard about what he told me.
Although I’ve heard my share of foreclosure stories like Anthony’s, I often lose sight of them when looking at the dry foreclosure numbers each day. I often forget that behind each of those numbers — 9 million homeowners who have started the foreclosure process since 2007, 4.5 million who have seen their homes seized by the banks, and 1.9 million who have been forced to sell via short sale —is often a story like Anthony’s that plays much more like an American Tragedy than an American Dream.
But hearing Anthony’s story also gives me hope that people are slowly getting back on their feet, even if it is sometimes with the help of a knee brace.
I’d like to hear your foreclosure story. Feel free to share it in the comments section below.