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Bank of America is a shitty neighbor
November 16, 2011 6:56 PM   Subscribe

"I live next door to a house owned by Bank of America, and they are the worst neighbors I’ve ever had. The previous owner, Mike, was a good guy; he occasionally had loud parties, but we were always invited and the food was great. Then he was killed on the job. He had been single and had no will, so his house swiftly defaulted to the lender. More than three years later, that house is still empty." An essay on trying to fight off suburban decay, and the changing face of the margins of American society.
posted by ardgedee (62 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bring over a homeless family to squat in it; I think in some places squatters get to buy the place for pennies if they live there long enough and can show they are maintaining the abandoned structure.
posted by Renoroc at 7:13 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Woah; well-written and probably the best "OWS doesn't need to have demands per se" argument I've read.
posted by entropone at 7:15 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Adverse posession

Perfect for cases like this.

I am almost convinced that the destruction of unwanted, unusable properties is preferrable to just letting them sit empty. I know, intellectually, that this is a bad idea, but I really don't understand why BoA would continue in this practice.

Interestingly, I looked at a bunch of rental homes recently, and they were in terrible shape. I got a job offer from the realtor because I described what I'd do to bring them into rentable condition, and approximately how much they'd cost. I may eventually take them up on it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:16 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Most galling: Bank of America has never put this house on the market.

That is shocking- why would that happen? How is it not in their own financial interest to sell the house?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:21 PM on November 16, 2011


How is it not in their own financial interest to sell the house?

I'm sure the answer lies in whatever accounting fuckery they're trying to pull off today. I am no accountant, but I don't doubt that, this being MeFi, one will be along shortly to explain.
posted by indubitable at 7:24 PM on November 16, 2011 [16 favorites]


i sure hope USBank doesn't have any shit like this going down
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:25 PM on November 16, 2011


thepinksupherhero, as long as it remains unsold, they can maintain the value on their balance sheet. Once it sells, they have to mark it as the value it was sold for.

This will probably be lower than the original value of the mortgage, which means a loss. BoA cannot afford many more losses, and this is, in my opinion, part of a systematic effort by BoA to maintain their balance sheet in the face of mounting losses.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:26 PM on November 16, 2011 [47 favorites]


It's so true. My dad had a wonderful house in a smallish town north of Seattle for about 10 years. Then he moved away and a new family moved in and really took care of it. They spiffed up the rose garden in the front yard, and converted the attic into a nice guest room.

About five years ago, I drove past the house and discovered that it was empty. It had signs in the windows that it had been winterized. I looked online and found it listed on a bank foreclosure list, but no "For Sale" sign ever appeared.

The yard gets shaggy, and then cut. I assume the neighbors are taking care of it. The apple tree in the back yard was loaded with apples this year. I hope some of the neighbors let themselves in to harvest at least a few.

I don't know how long that house will last if it doesn't get sold. Mold and mildew can really spell death for an unheated home in our cool, damp climate. And that house deserves so much better. It's one of the few older homes in our area (I think it dates from the 20s).
posted by ErikaB at 7:30 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


as long as it remains unsold, they can maintain the value on their balance sheet.

Grrrrrr. That is so fucked up.
posted by davidjmcgee at 7:33 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


In my neighborhood a wonderful Asian food market opened. Then the company they were leasing from failed to make payments, so the bank kicked out the market. The building is empty, but the bank says "We aren't in the rental/property management business."

So we lost a market and gained an empty building.

It's stuff like this that fuels OWS.
posted by cccorlew at 7:35 PM on November 16, 2011 [23 favorites]


If the banks put their inventory on the market, the market will crash and burn. There is a godawful amount of housing that should be for sale. Be glad it isn't.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:36 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm sure the answer lies in whatever accounting fuckery they're trying to pull off today.

This explains most of it: Mark to Market Rules Relaxed For Banks' Toxic Assets
posted by benzenedream at 7:39 PM on November 16, 2011


If the banks put their inventory on the market, the market will crash and burn. There is a godawful amount of housing that should be for sale. Be glad it isn't.

Unless you didn't buy into the hype, and want to see prices drop back down to where they should be based on demand, so that you can buy.
posted by inigo2 at 7:39 PM on November 16, 2011 [39 favorites]


And yes, that's a very simplified way to look at things, but so is "prices should stay high to protect people that bought into a bubble".
posted by inigo2 at 7:40 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


If the banks put their inventory on the market, the market will crash and burn. There is a godawful amount of housing that should be for sale. Be glad it isn't.

I know very little about stuff like this, but isn't that part of the problem? I probably AM glad that all of this properties are not for sale, but what a ridiculous state of affairs when we've put money and time and effort into building stuff and then we're relieved when no one is given the option of using it.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:40 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


If the banks put their inventory on the market, the market will crash and burn.

This is ridiculous. I have not yet been convinced that having "the market" is a better idea than more people having homes. If our economic system encourages banks to leave homes rotting while hundreds of thousands of people are homeless, the system must be fixed. Or replaced.
posted by davidjmcgee at 7:41 PM on November 16, 2011 [50 favorites]


If the banks put their inventory on the market, the market will crash and burn. There is a godawful amount of housing that should be for sale. Be glad it isn't.

Propping up deflating property prices didn't work out so well for Japan. Hitting the bottom (real prices) is when the recovery starts.
posted by benzenedream at 7:41 PM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


There is a severe glut in the housing market, and this is a symptom.

There is also a homelessness problem, and a people-being-evicted-from-their-homes problem. I wonder if we could somehow solve these problems at the same time?

There's no blood in the streets yet, but I'd be ready to buy property.

preview: inigo2, my job is protected from market forces (mostly) and I'm in a good position to take advantage of that sort of 'correction,' but I really don't want to see that kind of societal problem. I'd rather have a slow deflation.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:41 PM on November 16, 2011


What’s Occupy Wall St. doing for us? First off, it’s Occupying Wall Street – which is nice, because Wall Street has been occupying my neighborhood for three years, and we’re no better off for it.

I wish I could write like that.
posted by Dr. Eigenvariable at 7:53 PM on November 16, 2011 [17 favorites]


Bring over a homeless family to squat in it; I think in some places squatters get to buy the place for pennies if they live there long enough and can show they are maintaining the abandoned structure.
Or just squat there yourselves. I wonder if BoA is even paying property insurance.
posted by delmoi at 7:58 PM on November 16, 2011


How is it not in their own financial interest to sell the house?

If the banks put their inventory on the market, the market will crash and burn. There is a godawful amount of housing that should be for sale. Be glad it isn't.

Bank of America and the other banks own a lot of the housing. If they flood the value of their other real estate drops. It's not good for people, but it makes perfect sense for a bank.

As long as the sqatters are respectful and maintain the property, they would probably be better off occupied. Wouldn't that be a way for the bank to turn the protests on their head, offer them all free housing until it is time to release that house to the market.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 8:04 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd love to require all vacant buildings to be listed in a registry, by owner. Which bank holds the greatest amount of properties? None of this is good.
posted by zerobyproxy at 8:05 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


My SO's ex's house was foreclosed on about a year ago. They are still living there and the house has not been listed for sale. I guess it's in part to avoid situations like in the fpp. They may even be renting from the bank. I'm glad they're not homeless, but It's strange how arbitrary it seems. Either you've defaulted on your loan or you haven't. Chalk it up to one more reason to be suspicious of BOA.
posted by Biblio at 8:13 PM on November 16, 2011


Just pass an ordinance that states that all houses that are vacant and/or unmaintained longer than, say, 1 year are forfeited to the municipality or subject to a 500% property tax increase (to cover the cost of city provided maintenance and abandonment-related services). Once the house is occupied, the tax rate resets to normal and the occupants, if owners, are eligible for a temporary (say, 1-2 years) property tax abatement.

Of course, such legislation will probably never pass, but it would be a pretty effective way of getting someone to do something about all these zombie properties.
posted by Chrischris at 8:13 PM on November 16, 2011 [13 favorites]


Also, if we are willing to argue that unmaintained property negatively impacts adjacent property values, and if that impact can be demonstrated to be fungible, why aren't there some law firms out their putting together class-action lawsuits on behalf of the neighbors? The classes would be huge and the settlements would be ruinous for the banks, which would be forced, finally, to fulfill their responsibilities as property-owners or face the consequences.

Why isn't this happening already?
posted by Chrischris at 8:19 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


related
posted by tomswift at 8:34 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Systematically occupying Wall Street's abandoned properties all across the country might be a pretty good next move for the nascent movement.
posted by Jode at 8:47 PM on November 16, 2011 [21 favorites]


I've talked to two real estate agents in the past few days about a short sale I'm making an offer on. Both of them, when they heard which bank we'd have to negotiate with, said "At least it isn't Bank of America."
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:55 PM on November 16, 2011


Wow, what a great article: well written, humble and simple yet angry and direct. I appreciate the people who are doing the Occupy movements that I can't: I gotta occupy my house, because I'm the guy that shows up at the bus stop when they drop off my first grader every day. But they keep telling me to get angry and stay angry: and we should be angry about this shit, how BofA isn't satisfied with all the value they destroyed in the financial meltdown, they have to go and actually literally destroy literal property by being shitty absentee owners to boot. More stuff like this, fellow sympathizers who need to stay home and try to keep the properties viable!

If you're not a footnote reader don't miss this funky little link the author included in his considerations. Preach, brother.
posted by nanojath at 9:28 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also by local mensch David Erik Nelson: Snip Burn Solder Shred: Seriously Geeky Crafts to do With Your Kids. And note that this column appeared in The Ann Arbor Chronicle, a business launched by a refugee from the now-closed Ann Arbor News and her Teeter-Totter-interviewing, bike hauling service-operating husband. Now they cover every public meeting in town in excruciating detail that a print operation would never, ever have considered. The Chronicle gives me hope that the death of the corporate newspaper just might be the best thing that ever happened to journalism.
posted by ulotrichous at 9:46 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


preview: inigo2, my job is protected from market forces (mostly) and I'm in a good position to take advantage of that sort of 'correction,' but I really don't want to see that kind of societal problem. I'd rather have a slow deflation.

In theory, I'm also in a position to take advantage of a market plunge but am not really looking to do so. I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I'm sorry for the people who bought at the peak and who are now pretty thoroughly fucked no matter what happens. On the other hand, given that they are fucked regardless, I'm not sure what is gained from slowing the drop in prices. I'm ok if my own house plunges in value because I need to live somewhere and only in a cataclysmic drop will it become cheaper to rent. And the longer we drag out this pretense of "oh, the prices will rise, let's just wait a bit longer...", the longer young people and renters and anyone who didn't buy before can't buy a house now, and the longer houses like in the article sit empty.

There was a lot of housing constructed during the bubble, and I won't be surprised if it makes sense to bulldoze a lot of it. It always seems weird to demolish solid houses when people are homeless, but without an efficient and humane way to match people with houses I don't think it's doing anyone a service to just leave them to slowly deteriorate.
posted by Forktine at 9:46 PM on November 16, 2011


Bank of America and the other banks own a lot of the housing. If they flood the value of their other real estate drops. It's not good for people, but it makes perfect sense for a bank.
Avoiding marginal profits in an attempt to increase total profits only makes sense for a monopoly or a cartel.

I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you, mind you...
posted by roystgnr at 9:52 PM on November 16, 2011


On the one hand, I'm sorry for the people who bought at the peak and who are now pretty thoroughly fucked no matter what happens. On the other hand, given that they are fucked regardless, I'm not sure what is gained from slowing the drop in prices...

There was a lot of housing constructed during the bubble, and I won't be surprised if it makes sense to bulldoze a lot of it. It always seems weird to demolish solid houses when people are homeless, but without an efficient and humane way to match people with houses I don't think it's doing anyone a service to just leave them to slowly deteriorate.
posted by Forktine at 11:46 PM on November 16 [+] [!]


I can't argue with the basic sense of this but at the same time it seems like another strong argument that we could really use some really fresh ideas in government that buck the established wisdom of the marketplace that has obviously served us so poorly in the last decade. There is nothing stopping people with cooking up some serious schemes that provide "an efficient and humane way to match people with houses" (just off the top of my stupid, naive head, providing homeowners with otherwise relatively decent credit with an actually functional way to restructure their insane post-crash upside down mortgages in a way that rationally and fairly distributes the inevitable pain and loss of the market among themselves, their creditors, and the tax-paying public, rather than basically forcing them to walk away from houses they actually want to continue to own and occupy and improve and join the swelling ranks of the sad-but-rational "I'll probably never own a house again" crowd, seems like pretty low-hanging fruit).

I know I'm no financial mind, my sense of politics and economics is crude and simplistic, but it just pisses me off that our government in a matter of weeks can agree to basically hand out blank checks to the "too big to fail" crowd but when it comes to everyday working stiffs who made a bad mistake in market timing (a mistake that is of course exactly mirrored in the massive financial institutions that set up all these deal in the first place and sold them to investors as viable economic instruments), you know, float some half-baked shit and if it doesn't work out for almost everybody, hey, buyer beware dumbass. Please GOD give me a raft of major-party incumbent primary challengers in the next election.
posted by nanojath at 10:18 PM on November 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


It sounds like Bank of America will be the biggest residential landlord in the country in a couple years. If they organize a property management division the probably own enough houses to charge whatever they want for rents in some areas. I'm sure that'll go well.
posted by fshgrl at 10:21 PM on November 16, 2011


Avoiding marginal profits in an attempt to increase total profits only makes sense for a monopoly or a cartel.

Also makes sense if they're only worried about what happens this quarter, and next year be damned.
posted by clarknova at 10:54 PM on November 16, 2011


countrywide/boa 'own' my condo. i'm still the owner of record, but i haven't made a payment to them since 2008. i went chapter 7 over a year ago. so i'm protected, and the debt is no longer attached to me. which is a good thing, since i do live in a recourse state. they still have not taken possession of the property.

my HOA sued for possession because I haven't paid them either. chapter 7 wiped out a good chunk of fees to them, but they started accruing all over again after the bankruptcy protection ceased. they were supposed to bring a renter in to cover their costs and bring down the debt on my account. i haven't bothered to find out if they did. they keep sending me bills. good luck, assholes. i haven't had an actual job (though I've worked) in over 5 years.

they did actually have a date set for auction a few years ago. it never happened, because all foreclosure action everywhere stopped because of the robo-signing malfeasance (which I'm sure is still happening). they keep sending me packets to apply for a loan modification (again, good luck with that assholes). what they really want is for me and others like me to be gullible enough to sign paperwork resolving the chain of title issue they caused so they can properly recover the title.

basically, i have no expectation of this being resolved anytime soon. nor do i actually care. i tried to deed the title back to them, but there was some sort of title issue (haha. haha. hah.), and they couldn't process it.

for some reason, I was naive enough to think the 50 state Attorney General 'settlement' would finally resolve this. but, duh, of course the banks have enough influence to make sure it either goes away or the already struggling government lawyers drown in paperwork until 2047.

and meanwhile my drafty, cold, broken apartment sits empty.
posted by ninjew at 11:37 PM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


i tried to deed the title back to them, but there was some sort of title issue (haha. haha. hah.), and they couldn't process it.

I would explore this. I don't have a good understanding of it, but I've seen a few cases in which the owners have challenged the bank's ownership of a property, because the bank was, in fact, clueless as to the legal ownership. As in, the contracts and deeds and whatnot were so convoluted and impossible to untangle--in the bank's own paperwork--that the bank couldn't actually prove they owned the house. So the original owners essentially took their house back, paid for IIRC.

(I may not have got all of that right, I'm sure someone on this thread can explain this phenomenon better than I).
posted by zardoz at 11:55 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bring over a homeless family to squat in it; I think in some places squatters get to buy the place for pennies if they live there long enough and can show they are maintaining the abandoned structure.
Problem is squatters can't legally get the utilities turned on, so they often end up illegally hooking up to the neighborhood gas, water and electricity. This can disrupt the service of the folks paying for it and is a common cause of house fires in Detroit.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:09 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


BOA's multifaceted clusterfucks continue to give life to the phrase "evil corporation." Yes, it's probably a mistake to attribute to evil things that can be explained by incompetence, but sufficiently advanced incompetence is often indistinguishable from evil. When a corporation's actions have a continuing and serious negative effect on the populace, the corporation should be restrained, If it's too big to suffer the normal consequences of its mistakes, it's too big, and should be fragmented. Deregulation has failed us in many different ways; one of them is evident in the results of allowing megabanks to develop by gobbling up smaller competitors.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:07 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


what they really want is for me and others like me to be gullible enough to sign paperwork resolving the chain of title issue they caused so they can properly recover the title.

This needed to be said again.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:15 AM on November 17, 2011


If the banks put their inventory on the market, the market will crash and burn.

You seem to be under the impression the market hasn't already crashed.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:02 AM on November 17, 2011


You seem to be under the impression the market hasn't already crashed.

But not burned.

Seriously, housing prices in general still haven't reverted to the mean, much less overshot it. Between general market overhand and shadow inventory, well, no surprise that those who can are still waiting on the sidelines. Do you want your pain short and quick, or slow and lingering? We seem to opt for the latter in the vain hope pain will be optional. It isn't.

What should be the little guy's chief takeaway? Well, unless you're a professional, it is that buying a house is an expense, not an investment.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:45 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm a shitty neighbor. You should see our landscaping.

(heads over to Home Depot)
posted by stormpooper at 7:23 AM on November 17, 2011


A very good friend of mine has been renting a house in Florida (where the market crashed so hard that there are craters) for about 6 years now. Last year her landlord called to tell them that he defaulted, declared bankruptcy and that he no longer owned the house. (That was good of him, most people in his position would continue to collect rent.)

They've been waiting to hear from the bank, but as of today, crickets. The screened porch needs to be replaced after hurricane/tropical storms have shredded it. The pool has developed a leak, that in summer isn't such an issue, but when the weather cools, causes an inch or so to drain out of the pool every day. The hot water heater died, and they bought a new one. They suspect that there's Chinese dry wall in the house, you know, the stuff that's toxic and causes pipes to corrode.

They mow the yard, keep the electric on and live in the house. Other houses in the neighborhood are being reclaimed by the cleared swampland, slowly becoming overgrown with mold, mildew, grass, etc.

While it's great to live rent-free, the general shittiness of the structure, combined with sub-standard building materials is contributing to a situation where they are actually spending money to maintain the bank's property.

And still, no word from the bank. They don't even know which bank owns the house. At any time they could up and leave, which is a comfort, but you know, moving is such a hassle, and free rent is hard to give up.

I honestly don't know why the banks, if they don't want to SELL the properties, aren't at least trying to RENT them out. Even to the people who defaulted on the loans in the first place. Sure, they won't get enough to cover what the mortgage had been, but it would be something, and the folks living in the houses would provide maintenance and upkeep.

I suspect that banks haven't set themselves up to be landlords and the same delusions that allowed them to lend money to people for houses they couldn't afford, are allowing them to believe that this housing thing will turn around any minute now and they can sell the house at a profit.

Meanwhile, a day doesn't go by where I don't fantasize about how I send the keys back to the bank and I pack up my husband and cats and move into an apartment somewhere. You know, where I don't deal with the lawn, the roof, the gutters, etc.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:48 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


They should document the longest period of inactivity and lack of maintenance and send a letter to the property insurer (policies usually transfer with the house and are hard for the insurer to cancel) stating that it's vacant. Once BofA has the damage to the property on its own record, it'll move it.

The property insurance business is trying really hard to get enabling laws to let them off the hook for damage to these long term semi-vacant homes where really the fault lies with bank negligence. As it stands, a lot of the time the bank can recoup substantial funds from whoever the last occupant had insurance with.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 8:11 AM on November 17, 2011


Chrischris: "Also, if we are willing to argue that unmaintained property negatively impacts adjacent property values, and if that impact can be demonstrated to be fungible, why aren't there some law firms out their putting together class-action lawsuits on behalf of the neighbors? "

There's another option.

Here in DC, if you own a vacant or blighted property, your taxes go up. Just by a little bit at first, to be fair to people who are legitimately trying to sell their property. After that, the property tax rate begins to skyrocket, eventually reaching 10% of the property's assessed value. That's $20k a year for a building assessed at $200,000. Yeowch.

This is in contrast to the normal 0.85% property tax rate for residential structures.Oh, and we have also have a sweet homestead deduction that lets you subtract $67,500 from the value of your home for tax purposes, provided that you're the primary resident of the building. For all the crap DC gets about having high taxes....our taxes are actually kind of low

Under this scheme, slumlords are compelled to either sell the property to somebody who wants to do something with it, or to find tenants to live there.

This discourages Real Estate speculation, keeps buildings occupied, and generally forces these lenders to be good neighbors. In a bad real estate market, it also has the effect of driving prices down (potentially way down), as it compels people to sell vacant houses sooner than later. (However, DC's not a bad market right now.) Yes, there are developers who skirt the rules, but you generally don't see Bank of America holding onto foreclosed houses for much more than a few months.

Also, as others have mentioned, real estate and housing are still vastly more expensive and unaffordable than they were just 10 years ago, especially considering that wages have more or less stalled. For all the discussion about homeowners' god-given right to the artificially-inflated value of their nest-egg, there's surprisingly little discussion about how it's become virtually impossible to become a homeowner if you aren't already one.

Maybe if 20-30 year olds weren't forced to live on top of each other in tiny houses and apartments directly adjacent to a strip of abandoned homes, we could actually pump some money back into the economy. Instead, wealthy landowners cling onto their abandoned properties, letting them rot, all in the false hope that the market will someday recover (It won't, and shouldn't), while the millennials slowly sink down into a lost generation.
posted by schmod at 8:11 AM on November 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Unless you didn't buy into the hype, and want to see prices drop back down to where they should be based on demand, so that you can buy.

They all read have. You want millions more to be underwater? Where, exactly, do you get this idea that the housing crisis is "hype"?
posted by spaltavian at 8:42 AM on November 17, 2011


Do you want your pain short and quick, or slow and lingering?

Slow and lingering, of course. Massive shocks are a hell of a lot worse for the economy than long-term drags.

You're equation falsely asserts that the choice is 100 units of pain at once vs. 100 units of pain over, say, a decade.

But it doesn't work that way. 100 units of paid over 10 years can be managed, planned for and dealt with. 100 units of pain at once, however, cannot be managed; leading to additional damange- business failures, lost jobs, inability to borrow for education, etc. So it ends up being 1000 units of damage.
posted by spaltavian at 8:48 AM on November 17, 2011


BofA Threatens Foreclosure Over Missing $1 From Already-Sold Home
posted by homunculus at 8:55 AM on November 17, 2011


Please GOD give me a raft of major-party incumbent primary challengers in the next election.

THIS. THIS. THIS.

307 MILLION TIMES THIS!

What I really want to see from Occupy Wall Street is what we saw from the Tea Party a couple years ago:

Start showing up at Democratic campaign events, and turn the shame light on the feckless incumbent Democrats. And run some angry nobodies to replace them. I know some Dems won't deserve it, but I'm beyond caring about that. Fuck 'em. If we need to scare the shit out of our "progressive" leaders by threatening to set the boat on fire, so be it.

I may not be able to occupy any street for any amount of time, but by God, I can make it to a campaign even and be part of an angry mob.
posted by General Tonic at 9:35 AM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wonder whether existing homesteader exemptions could be combined with schmod's steadily-cimbing taxes on vacant properties to prod the banks into getting rid of the properties?

This would slowly drive up the bank's expenses while allowing the bogus "value" to remain static, and eventually tip their motive from "hold" to "sell." (Wouldn't it?) It would also increase tax revenues to the community, and what town couldn't use more money these days? I guess it would also hurt large-scale landlords, but if they are refusing to write down their real estate -- the same as the banks -- then to hell with 'em.

BRB, off to call the mayor….
posted by wenestvedt at 10:25 AM on November 17, 2011


They all read have. You want millions more to be underwater? Where, exactly, do you get this idea that the housing crisis is "hype"?

Who said the housing crisis is "hype"? Not me, the person you're quoting. The insanely rising prices of the past few years were hype. Huge hype. That some people looked at and said, "well, hell, these prices aren't sustainable, I'll wait to buy until they come back down to a rational level".

Do I want the value of peoples' houses to be below what they paid? No. But if nobody wants to / can buy at current levels, then they should go down.

It's a difficult issue, because there was obviously fraud and shadiness going on. But that doesn't mean the government should automatically prop up people that bought into a market at a bad time. Regardless of what they've already done for banks.
posted by inigo2 at 10:40 AM on November 17, 2011


Speaking of robo-signing, Nevada has just indicted two of the people who did it there:
http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/11/nevada-attorney-general-robo-signing-indictments

"Office of the Attorney general ANNOUNCES indictment in massive clark county robo-signing scheme

"Defendants to be Held Criminally Accountable for Filing Tens of Thousands of Fraudulent Foreclosure Documents

"Carson City, NV – The Office of the Nevada Attorney General announced today that the Clark County grand jury has returned a 606 count indictment against two title officers, Gary Trafford and Gerri Sheppard, who directed and supervised a robo-signing scheme which resulted in the filing of tens of thousands of fraudulent documents with the Clark County Recorder’s Office between 2005 and 2008."
posted by wenestvedt at 10:52 AM on November 17, 2011


there's surprisingly little discussion about how it's become virtually impossible to become a homeowner if you aren't already one.

I think buying a home has become more difficult for the average 20-something (well, for everyone to some degree) but it still surprises me how many people, even in this climate, refuse to consider a smaller house. I still know young couples that just need 3000 square feet, in their opinion. That puts them in the 350k+ market in my area and we don't have a ton of high-paying gigs.

In my reality, those young couples could (should) be considering many smaller 170k~240k properties*. I mean, really, two people living in 1400 square feet? THE TRAVESTY!

* this is, of course, assuming they don't both have piles of student loan and CC debt, lousy credit scores, and bad spending habits
posted by mbatch at 10:52 AM on November 17, 2011


sufficiently advanced incompetence is often indistinguishable from evil

I'm so stealing that. We could call it "Clerk's Law."
posted by Gelatin at 12:47 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


schmod, do you have any references for more info about those property tax rules? I would realllly like to see if I can introduce the idea to our city council.
posted by epersonae at 4:11 PM on November 17, 2011


Not schmod, but here's a few links I've found interesting when I looked at this stuff previously (plus googling right now):

First off, a key google term is "dc blight taxes".
Here are DC tax rates for various classes of property (residential, commercial, vacant, blight)

A little more info on the implementation of the tax rates. Unfortunately, the link to "exceptions related to improved vacant property" is borked; a little bit that I've read implies this is how a lot of people get around the increased tax rates. Mow the lawn / replace a window / etc., and poof, you're not paying the rate. But the specifics would be on that page, wherever it is.

Finally, this DC Vacant Properties Blog has writeups about a lot of properties, and in some writeups, info about the different tax rates and how they're applied to specific properties. Some interesting reading, and I'd bet if you contacted the blogger they'd help you with specific info.
posted by inigo2 at 5:01 PM on November 17, 2011


Mow the lawn / replace a window / etc., and poof, you're not paying the rate.

If the absentee owners do the minimum to maintain the property then there's no real problem and they shouldn't be penalized. Even though it generates revenue, the DC government doesn't seem keen to seek out the derelict properties and typically relies on tips/complaints before they look at the property and assess it at the "derelict" rate. They're also notoriously lax in going after big developers (the aforementioned Jemal Bros/Norm Jemal) and churches, and both groups own a big chunk of fallow properties in DC.
posted by Challahtronix at 5:17 PM on November 17, 2011


Unless you didn't buy into the hype, and want to see prices drop back down to where they should be based on demand, so that you can buy.

A fair enough statement, provided you're prepared to take it all the way back to circa 198x when this whole mess was kicked off. That means essentially everyone is underwater to the point of bankruptcy.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:30 PM on November 17, 2011


Start showing up at Democratic campaign events, and turn the shame light on the feckless incumbent Democrats.

That didn't work so well for the Tea Party; they seem to have lost all their inertia now that they are just the frothy wing of the Republican Party. I don't think the OWS people see the world in Democrat-vs-Republican terms to begin with: both parties are largely financed by and responsive to the interests of "the 1%".
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:17 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Systematically occupying Wall Street's abandoned properties all across the country might be a pretty good next move for the nascent movement.
posted by Jode at 4:47 AM on November 17


Occupy London are currently occupying abandoned premises belonging to UBS bank (who just cut thousands of jobs). They've dubbed it the Bank of Ideas.
posted by Acey at 5:22 AM on November 18, 2011


A decade or so ago there was "Occupy Woodwards" in Vancouver, BC. And I believe NYC was/is home to "Occupy Tunnel" communities.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:40 PM on November 18, 2011


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