The Weeklies
April 28, 2013 6:09 PM   Subscribe

“My husband and I, our parents wanted better for us than what they had,” Bonnie says. “And it’s gone backwards.”

Monica Potts profiles one Colorado family of "weeklies", formerly middle-class families staying long-term in budget hotels. In a complex situation caught between housing predation and their own expectations and prejudices, Bonnie, Andy, and Drew live out a form of Great Recession-era homelessness while trying to get back on their feet.
posted by threeants (92 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
They lost their storage unit because they couldn’t afford the $300 a month in fees...

A $300/mo. storage unit?!
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:16 PM on April 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Bonnie and Andy still work for a few landscaping customers and earn a little money. Andy also owns about 240 acres of family land in New Mexico" Listed at $1,000 per acre.

Not sure what to think about this....
posted by HuronBob at 6:25 PM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


To score the cheap rates, $210 for individuals and slightly more for families, they must pay in advance.

Whoa, is $210 a week actually cheap for a rental in a Denver suburb?
posted by en forme de poire at 6:29 PM on April 28, 2013


Not sure what to think about this....

There are two references later in the article that touch upon the fact that they were unable to sell the land.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:33 PM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't understand how $210 a week, or 840 a month is cheap. You could live in an okay rental in Brooklyn or Queens for that.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:35 PM on April 28, 2013


I don't understand how $210 a week, or 840 a month is cheap. You could live in an okay rental in Brooklyn or Queens for that.

Without putting down a big deposit and the other associated costs involved with renting an apartment?
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:37 PM on April 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


So Andy took out a home-equity loan from Countrywide in 2007 for $48,000 to keep the family afloat.

Grr. You don't take out a loan to keep the family afloat. That's like borrowing a shovel to dig your own grave. Sell the effing house!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:37 PM on April 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Bonnie remembers growing up in a nice, middle-class neighborhood, but now she says it’s more like a rundown border town, full of Mexican immigrants

Hmmm.

part of the reason Bonnie and Andy were stuck in the hotel was that they wouldn’t consider renting or moving to neighborhoods more affordable than the solidly middle-class Bear Valley. Bonnie had owned a home, and she wanted to own one again.

It's interesting isn't it, how solidly class perceptions can stick in the face of so much contradicting evidence. Not a new phenomenon, either.

I don't know what it's like in the US, but in Australia I sometimes feel the best trick that capitalists and their bought politicians ever pulled was convincing everyone of classlessness.

Classless in the sense, that everyone thinks they are middle class, yet paradoxically struggling. A promise of continuous mobility married to the ever-present threat of slipping backwards. It has propelled a debt binge, multiple home ownership, soaring admissions to private schools, resentment around tax and provision of welfare (both as recipient and tax payer), and - crucially - it has absolutely fucking killed any sense of solidarity.

It has individualised people, and robbed the public and media of any perception of society - beyond "the nation" tuning into to watch popular reality shows.

The unifying, public, communal is diverted into the divisive, private, personal. Makes political action beyond a wan mewling at the ballot box all but impossible.
posted by smoke at 6:39 PM on April 28, 2013 [130 favorites]


Pope Guilty, it depends on the apartment, but I've lived in plenty of shared apartments in NYC that did not require a security deposit.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:39 PM on April 28, 2013


Apartments also usually require a credit check, which, if you've just had a house foreclosed on, would be awfully hard to pass.

There's also this bit:
"When families in Jefferson County, which encompasses Denver’s western suburbs, lost their home in the recession, they flooded a market that had the lowest number of rental vacancies in ten years. "
Which probably means prices were unusually high and vacancies damned hard to find, especially if you were short on cash and had shitty credit.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:42 PM on April 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


I don't understand how $210 a week, or 840 a month is cheap. You could live in an okay rental in Brooklyn or Queens for that.

In what year?

In the mid 90s, I had a $660 apt in Washington state an hour from Seattle that I considered cheap, esp considering it was 2 bedrooms, 1.5 baths and had a balcony. 15-20 years later, I'd be surprised if that apt was less than $800/month.

I thought all NYC apts were like $1500 minimum.
posted by DU at 6:43 PM on April 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't understand how $210 a week, or 840 a month is cheap. You could live in an okay rental in Brooklyn or Queens for that.

To move into a weekly, you need to give them $210. And then next week $210. To move into an apartment you need the whole month upfront and most likely a deposit and pass a credit check.
posted by birdherder at 6:44 PM on April 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


To move into a weekly, you need to give them $210. And then next week $210. To move into an apartment you need the whole month upfront and most likely a deposit and pass a credit check.

Not only that, but to set up utilities you will have to pay deposits if you have poor credit.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:47 PM on April 28, 2013 [3 favorites]




The article also makes the point that part of the problem of the family being profiled is that they're unwilling to make concessions to their new status - they don't want to move to a cheap apartment in a poorer neighborhood, they want to rent a house in the nice neighborhood they're used to. Which seems to me like another symptom of the problem that got them into this in the first place.

Don't get me wrong, the banks were fucking unscrupulous about preying on people with unrealistic relationships to money, but that doesn't mean that they were right and just got fucked over. They were in a vulnerable position, and it breaks my heart to think that the accurate and necessary narrative of the evil banks is a roadblock in the way of people like this educating themselves about finances and class and home ownership.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:54 PM on April 28, 2013 [19 favorites]


All of the things mentioned in this thread re: why stay in a hotel instead of get an apartment were covered a dozen years ago in Ehrenreich's Nickled and Dimed.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:58 PM on April 28, 2013 [26 favorites]


Not sure what to think about this....

There are two references later in the article that touch upon the fact that they were unable to sell the land.


They were unable to sell it at $1,000 per acre, so they couldn't score that 1/4 million that would have brought, but could they have sold it for $500 per acre and saved the house?
posted by HuronBob at 6:58 PM on April 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Personally, I feel that the importance of hearing stories like this is because they're real and represent phenomena that are occurring; not because the people profiled are being held up as exemplars of rational action.
posted by threeants at 7:14 PM on April 28, 2013 [49 favorites]


All of the things mentioned in this thread re: why stay in a hotel instead of get an apartment were covered a dozen years ago in Ehrenreich's Nickled and Dimed.

Exactly. See also Pratchett's parable of the boots.
posted by gamera at 7:17 PM on April 28, 2013 [18 favorites]


Last year I went to rent an apartment in LA after a 5+ year run of bouncing around without much in the way of a conventional adult middle-class base. I'd stayed with friends and family, in short-term subleases, in hotels (a certain Extended Stay America in the Sacramento area was pretty much my home for a year), and even sometimes my car in rougher moments. It'd been an adventure, some good, some bad, but it was time to settle in somewhere for a while.

When I selected the place I wanted, I could've put up to $5000 into a deposit and initial rent payments, and my month salary was 5x monthly rent. Shoo-in, right? Nope. Having no recent "normal" rental history + some credit issues meant that most managed apartment setups seemed to be pretty skeptical about me, if not entirely off limits. Some private parties didn't see me with a kinder eye. I didn't get the place I favored most.

I'm not complaining: I understood some of the skepticism, and I didn't *really* have it hard. With the cash on hand, it was a matter of doing extra legwork and finding the people who decided I was a good prospect anyway and returning their trust by paying/treating them responsibly. And I was just looking for myself, not a couple or a family, so there's more situations that could fit the bill.

I can imagine it gets much harder than that, and that once you go off the map for a while and have limited resources, the system can start to create negative feedback loops making it harder and harder for you to get back on. You don't look like a good bet, so you're consigned to marginal housing, where you pay more in smaller chunks, so it's harder to save, and you look less and less like a good bet the longer you're there...
posted by weston at 7:54 PM on April 28, 2013 [21 favorites]


smoke: It's interesting isn't it, how solidly class perceptions can stick in the face of so much contradicting evidence. Not a new phenomenon, either.
So true... I once dated a single mom of two kids, with a deadbeat dad not paying support, and asked her why she shopped at the Giant Eagle instead of the much cheaper Aldees. She explained that the meats at Aldees didn't last as long. "So, why not buy your canned goods at Aldees, then?" No answer.

Also, when she was at risk of losing her apartment, I asked her if she considered applying for food stamps. "No, that's for poor people!"

Arrrgh...
posted by IAmBroom at 8:17 PM on April 28, 2013


Also, when she was at risk of losing her apartment, I asked her if she considered applying for food stamps. "No, that's for poor people!"

Noting gamera's reference to Terry Pratchett above, I'll just add that Mr Pratchett is extremely good on the topic of class, and subjective understanding of class:
Unlike the Shades, though, Cockbill Street was clean, with the haunting, empty cleanliness you get when people can't afford to waste dirt. For Cockbill Street was where people lived who were worse than poor, because they didn't know how poor they were. If you asked them they would probably say something like 'mustn't grumble' or 'there's far worse off than us' or 'we've always kept uz heads above water and we don't owe nobody nowt'.

He could hear his granny speaking. 'No one's too poor to buy soap.' Of course, many people were. But in Cockbill Street they bought soap just the same. The table might not have any food on it but, by gods, it was well scrubbed. That was Cockbill Street, where what you mainly ate was your pride.
From Feet of Clay, chapter 11.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:34 PM on April 28, 2013 [29 favorites]


It feels like the thread here is that the newly poor need to suddenly stop being in denial about their status, to understand that they are no longer middle class, to gain class consciousness, to rise up to and to overturn the unjust economic system that has screwed us all. I hope that isn't what it takes to get us out of this bad situation, because that seems like a very unlikely string of events to happen.
posted by jiawen at 9:39 PM on April 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


I hope that isn't what it takes to get us out of this bad situation, because that seems like a very unlikely string of events to happen.

I hope so, too. I think what's more likely to happen is that the not-yet-poor look at stories like this, go "Those people are just like me! I could get screwed too!" and work to fix the unjust system, instead of looking at the super-rich and thinking "Those people are just like me! If I keep voting for them, surely I'll become even more like them!"
posted by restless_nomad at 9:46 PM on April 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


You shouldn't have to make all perfect decisions in life to get to live with basic dignity.
posted by Sequence at 9:59 PM on April 28, 2013 [39 favorites]


You shouldn't have to make all perfect decisions in life to get to live with basic dignity.

You shouldn't have to worry whether your bank is lying to you and trying to sell you a product that is pretty much designed to bankrupt you.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:02 PM on April 28, 2013 [20 favorites]


I mean, this is kind of stupid:
So Andy took out a home-equity loan from Countrywide in 2007 for $48,000 to keep the family afloat. “We wouldn’t have taken out the loan had we known they were crooked,” Bonnie says. “We never would have used that money.”
Likely, they simply didn't understand how the loan would work. But, equally likely, the bank knew or should have known that the loan was not sustainable. You have to question whether the family in question were able to provide legitimate informed consent.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:07 PM on April 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


It feels like the thread here is that the newly poor need to suddenly stop being in denial about their status, to understand that they are no longer middle class, to gain class consciousness, to rise up to and to overturn the unjust economic system that has screwed us all.

I was thinking about the irony of the fact that so many of these people are Republicans, still love Dubya, still vote Republican, and go to Tea Party rallies, and rail about Obama being behind all of this and being a Kenyan terrorist with a forged birth certificate to boot.

How to get these folks to help overturn the unjust economic system when they continue to keep voting in the people whose top priority is to entrench it even more?

The thing is, they ARE angry about the system. Bonnie, for example, was clearly enraged and clearly identified the banking system as the source of the problem. How to channel that? I do think it's possible to channel that.

The problem is that the left tries to sell systemic reform in a way that's not compelling to a lot of people with those kinds of politics. The left frames it as being something communal, about taking care of each other as citizens, caring about each other, being all in it together.

But the visceral anger that many conservatives in this situation feel doesn't come from feeling like they were let down by their society, let down by people who should have cared for them and didn't.

It comes from feeling like something that was THEIRS, a tangible thing was was indisputably their own, officially, with paperwork with their name on it, was stolen from them by someone else, by fraud.

I wish we would start framing things that way. I think we would have way more success. I think a lot of those folks are irritated or even angered by the "communal" framing, because it takes away from the fact that this was something that was theirs, that they alone worked to get, with no-one else's help.
posted by cairdeas at 10:17 PM on April 28, 2013 [20 favorites]


It has individualised people, and robbed the public and media of any perception of society
yeah that's real good

what were human rights for like minorities and stuff like before this whole "individualism" deal
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:01 PM on April 28, 2013


Alluding, of course, to you, your sarcasm's getting in the way of whatever point you mean to be making, at least for me. Could read you both ways.
posted by klangklangston at 11:06 PM on April 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know what it's like in the US, but in Australia I sometimes feel the best trick that capitalists and their bought politicians ever pulled was convincing everyone of classlessness.

Oh yeah? Well let me just remind you, you smarmy know it all dole bludging tree hugging moozy loving marriage undermining latte sipping elite, that here in Rooty Hill we are fed up to the back teeth with your Class Warfare bullshit and we laugh and laugh and laugh every time Alan Jones gets stuck into your precious little Juliar and her faceless cronies about it. Still plenty of chaff bags in the back of the ute for you, mate.
posted by flabdablet at 11:17 PM on April 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Seems like they made some bad decisions without educating themselves about the possible consequences of those decisions, and were then caught in the economic storm. Would things have been different without that home equity loan?
posted by KokuRyu at 11:23 PM on April 28, 2013


Wow, some of the responses in here are really frustrating me. I mean threads related to people getting boned by the recession usually bother me on basically the entire internet, but somehow i expected better.

It's almost entirely armchair admiral stuff like people watching it all replayed on tv, and going "OH, see! that's where they fucked up, right they. If they had swerved left instead of right then they'd be a bit ahead at the next crossroads" which is super problematic for two reasons.

First of all, because there's this enormous neon elephant in the room implication of "And since they made this obviously bad decision that we can all agree wasn't the right choice, they deserve less sympathy and we should move and find someone more worthy of ours" as if feeling bad for people getting fucked over is some finite resource, or we need to get all super in depth analyzing their decisions to figure out the exact entitled quotient going on in their minds and actions or something.

Second, that it's completely missing the point. Which is that this is a huge problem effecting a shitload of people. Everyone focuses in on this one family. And yea, this family was the focus of the article. But i don't really think this family was the point of the article, and i don't even think their stubbornness to admit they were fucked and immediately go grovel and live in the ghetto someone makes this problem "exaggerated" or anything.

I don't even know where else to go from there, but i just think the armchair liberal "well it's so obvious from out here how and where they went wrong!" attitude bugs the SHIT out of me when it comes to stuff like this. Think for a minute. Try harder. Make an effort. Anyone who has actually been in a situation like this knows that perspective can be pretty hard, and that you make the choices that keep you afloat and moving forward. There's a million things that people don't even consider until they're right there that keep you from making the "good" choice sometimes. See the posts above about issues getting utilities connected, or an apartment at all when your credit is fucked and you don't have a lot of money laying around. There are barriers like this all over the place that people who are even scraping the bottom of middle class barely ever even brush again.

Middle class nerds who don't understand being poor often sound a bit too much like middle class white nerds who think racism doesn't exist anymore, or is exaggerated, or something.
posted by emptythought at 11:23 PM on April 28, 2013 [35 favorites]


i am wondering if a strong collective instinct benefits those who tend not to be part of the collective
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:24 PM on April 28, 2013


I can't imagine making $80,000 and then wind up having to live in a hotel.

Actually, I can't imagine making $80,000, period. Damn scary, to think they were doing that well, (by my standards) then BANG!
posted by BlueHorse at 11:29 PM on April 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think what's more likely to happen is that the not-yet-poor look at stories like this, go "Those people are just like me! I could get screwed too!" and work to fix the unjust system, instead of looking at the super-rich and thinking "Those people are just like me! If I keep voting for them, surely I'll become even more like them!"

Here in Australia, our former Prime Minister ("Man of Steel" John Howard) was the first party leader to take a huge punt on the popularity of your second option. He invented a label ("the aspirationals") for people who thought that way, re-jigged his party's platform to appeal strongly to them, and became Australia's second-longest-serving PM as a result.

The trick still works. We're pretty much set to have that same party sweep back into power in a landslide come September.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: my faith in the success of the progressive program died the day I found out that two thirds of Australians supported the Howard Government's new "anti-terror" law that gave the spooks official sanction to detain "terrorist suspects" without charge and in enforced secrecy for up to two weeks.

The reason we can't have nice things is that we are, collectively, political imbeciles.
posted by flabdablet at 11:35 PM on April 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


i am wondering if a strong collective instinct benefits those who tend not to be part of the collective

I think a generalisation around this would be silly: Unions improved working conditions for unionised and non-unionised alike, but have also hurt people outside of unions at various points in time and history.
posted by smoke at 12:01 AM on April 29, 2013


It's a complicated story and it's not passing judgement to observe they made some bad choices.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:04 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


No. It's also not unfair to point out that a system that meets some bad decisions with homelessness or ludicrously insecure housing for the foreseeable future isn't exactly good.
posted by jaduncan at 12:46 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


A $300/mo. storage unit?!

Entire contents of a house, most likely. The house they would never be able to buy to put the stuff they owned back into.

I've heard a lot of stories about storage units from families who thought they'd be able to make it past this rough spot. Of course, the "obvious" way to maximize utility would be to sell everything, save the rental fees, and put that toward a down payment, other debts, or whatever, but people don't like to sell everything (assuming it would bring a fraction of its replacement value, which often isn't true, especially in a situation where a lot of similar middle-class detritus is going free for the asking), as it's an admission of defeat. But one girl I know only remembered losing three generations of family photos.

Maslow is a very important thing to consider here.

Anyway, my feelings echo emptythoughts's -- this sort of armchair quarterbacking, with a severely judgemental overtone, is pretty common online. (See also.) We're going through this in my hometown with our paper's brave attempt at yet another article about how much poverty has increased (since we lost GM, primarily), up against a very reactionary readership (thankfully not as represented in local voting). Obviously, you know, there can't be any poor people because $CELLPHONES.
posted by dhartung at 1:13 AM on April 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm always unsure if people are aware that you can purchase cellphones for $20 now.
posted by jaduncan at 1:26 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


jiawen: "Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." -- Ronald Wright paraphrasing John Steinbeck
posted by pont at 1:42 AM on April 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


It's kind of funny so many posters take exception to the lack of sympathy shown Andy and Bonnie here. Reading the article, it's not clear to me Andy and Bonnie are supposed to be viewed sympathetically. The article isn't about the system. It's about Andy and Bonnie, focuses on the series of decisions that pull them down, and their rotten feedback loop they themselves can't seem to see.

They end up $68,000 in debt trying to keep a house, that they eventually become comfortable leaving, because the neighborhood is full of Mexicans these days, anyhow. A year passed from the time of their eviction notice to the time they had to leave, and didn't take the advice from several advocate entities during the time. They are reluctant to settle for renting in an affordable neighborhood, because they want to own. It sounds like they're unwilling to unload their NM land without angling for some kind of loopy scheme. And they seem unable to recognize the soul sucking behavior they're indulging that repeatedly points them in the wrong direction.

The system's hardly the sole blame here. The system even offered them good advice. They chose to follow their own call, come hell, high water, and homelessness. Hopefully someday their call will reward them with some peace and prosperity. If it does, I get the feeling it will be despite their stubborn determination, not because of it.

If Potts really wanted to portray sympathy for these weeklies, she would have done well to choose a more sympathetic family.

I find, once again, the most interesting thing about this post is the determination to drive a particular narrative from the pool of usual suspects. Made notable by the increasingly bare invective.
posted by 2N2222 at 2:00 AM on April 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


jaduncan: 1:48 to 2:12

If Potts really wanted to portray sympathy for these weeklies, she would have done well to choose a more sympathetic family.

Here's the deal, 2N2222: there is no ideally sympathetic family. There is no perfect victim of circumstances. There is No True Scotsman here. Critics are always able to find the cracks, the place where THESE folks "messed up", "went off track", "cooked their own goose" (so to speak, and how apposite an analogy that one is). This family has a wide-screen TV (used value: $100, maybe). This one spends a lot of gas money taking their kids to the school where they used to go. This one has, horrors, a dog (actual local example). This one zigged when they should have zagged.

Yet, somehow, all these millions of Americans "stubbornly determined" themselves out of middle-class prosperity in the space of a couple of years.

Now, I am no wizard of human nature, but I don't suspect it changes all that much in general. Indeed, the entire science of economics more or less depends that it doesn't. How did all these people all of a sudden become their own worst enemies, and how is it that some posters have a determination to make us all think that, instead of some other narrative where there are things that are wrong about the system that can be fixed? We do know that human nature is constant; we do know that the profit motive excuses a lot of higgledy-piggledy in the name of selling. We do know that this was probably the first home equity loan undertaken by this family, and yet it is probably the 500,000th HEL, or 2,500,000th, or whatever, written by Countrywide. Which party in this transaction is more likely to understand the consequences? You tell me.

Realize that if there is bare invective, it is because people -- people across this great and generous land -- are hurting, and others seem to think that's just a dandy outcome that will teach them a nice, spank-on-the-butt lesson so they won't be such a burden to those of lesser sympathy in the future. I'm sorry if that's too blunt for you and you're now emotionally worse off than the "weeklies" are economically.
posted by dhartung at 2:13 AM on April 29, 2013 [26 favorites]


dhartung: I'm not from the US. Listening to Limbaugh felt a little like listening to some cartoonishly evil commentator in a scifi dystopia...and again, the argument was surreal in that it's literally "they aren't starving to death and without communications yet, for which they should be appropriately grateful and stop asking for more".
posted by jaduncan at 3:00 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


The article isn't about the system. It's about Andy and Bonnie, focuses on the series of decisions that pull them down, and their rotten feedback loop they themselves can't seem to see.

Yeah, but so what? First of all, more than anything, I think that Monica Potts is just trying to truthfully describe reality. And the article is a portrait of these people, and she's decided to make it a complex, detailed portrait showing the human flaws of these people.

So we see that these people have flaws, and they might be angry, or snobby, and they made some decisions that made their situation worse. Okay, fine. None of that changes the fact that a bunch of bankers deliberately fucked over millions of people in dishonest and predatory ways, so that a few of them could take all that money of all those people and become even more obscenely rich then they already were. None of that changes the fact that a small group of rich people DELIBERATELY engaged in predation, deception, and fraud so that, they could siphon off money from middle class, working class, and poor people and add it to their own already-gigantic bank accounts. That small, powerful group took the HOMES of people living on peanuts, so that they could make their fat bank accounts even larger than they already were.

The biggest asshole you know could get mugged on the street, and brutalized. And you could say, well, he shouldn't have walked down that street, and he made it worse when he didn't give over his wallet right away, and he definitely shouldn't have told the mugger to fuck himself. See he almost got himself into it in a way, and he was an asshole anyhow. That doesn't change the fact that if that happened, the mugger would deserve to go to prison for what he did. And it doesn't change the fact that the mugging was wrong, that the mugger was responsible for his own actions in doing it, and it's an act that should not have happened to another human being. You could say that the other guy might have made it worse, but the bottom line is, it should not have been done to him in the first place and the ultimate responsibility lies with the person who did it. When you sue someone for harming you, the idea is to be restored to the condition you would have been in if they had not harmed you. The idea isn't, well, now you just have to make the best of the condition they left you in.
posted by cairdeas at 3:58 AM on April 29, 2013 [14 favorites]


You know, this is where I think in many cases, it pays to grow up a cynic. Because you don't assume that people are going to be on your side.

The business of banks is not to keep people in their homes, or be friendly, or help the dream of home ownership. The business of banks is to make money.

In this case, it seems like the banks made a 40,000 loan to people who probably couldn't pay it off, after which, they would own the home probably worth way more than 40,000$. Am I reading this right?Because if so, the bank had no reason to try to make sure that the couple could pay - because they get either the money or the house either way. The bank's job is not to protect its customers - it's to protect itself. That's the only reason for checking to see if someone can pay.

I can't recall where I read it, but I read that companies with stock are actually prohibited from making decisions based on morals rather than financial reasons, because it's viewed as defrauding the stockholders. If so, if the decision is legal, I'm not sure blaming the banks is the best decision in this case.

Though admittedly, I have to say my blood boiled a little with the "We don't want to live with all the Mexicans" bullshit, so I'm hardly the most neutral party. The Mexicans probably don't want to live with racists like you, either, so maybe everyone wins.
posted by corb at 4:41 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


The business of banks is not to keep people in their homes, or be friendly, or help the dream of home ownership. The business of banks is to make money.

Same as any other business, and that is fine. But that is not the same thing as defrauding people, which is what happened here. You can't take this to the extent of fraud.

I can't recall where I read it, but I read that companies with stock are actually prohibited from making decisions based on morals rather than financial reasons, because it's viewed as defrauding the stockholders. If so, if the decision is legal, I'm not sure blaming the banks is the best decision in this case.

Yeah, in corporate law as it stands now, corporations have a duty to shareholders, and that duty is to make them them money. Period. (That still doesn't extend to fraud). But the nice thing about our laws is that we as a nation created them, and we can change them to something else if need be, and whatever we change them to will be just as legitimate.
posted by cairdeas at 5:03 AM on April 29, 2013


Oh Countrywide, how thee vex me.

(My apologies for the lengthy over-share here. There is a point, I promise.)

I had a mortgage with Countrywide back in the day. My first job out of college, working 60-80 hours a week with my only day off on Sunday, started renting an older house from a friend. For someone who had a roommate for the last umpteen years four walls of my own and a fenced in backyard meant I was living the dream. After a year or so of this had enough saved up for a down payment and offered to buy the place. Young and upwardly mobile indeed.

Since the hours I worked determined my paycheck I earned (yay for sales... /sigh) couldn't get enough time off to go to a bank to get a typical mortgage, then came the online app. First time buyer, credit was shaky, but not bad. Countrywide was a breeze to work with, or at least they were more than happy to go out of their way to get me to sign up. I mean, I signed the contracts in a Hardees down the street from where I worked.

Payment was less than $500 a month, which was less than 20% of my take-home. Set the bank account to auto-pay, still able to put 50% in the bank, pay bills, and even have a decent night out every once in a while. Like I said, living the dream.

Then... the fucking economy crashed. To this day I still don't really know what the term "economy" means for individuals, but what it meant for me was no more sales jobs. No customers = no sales = me getting fired for not meeting my quotas = no unemployment. Six months out of a job and I had eaten through every penny of that savings, but I hadn't missed a single payment. I even went so far as cancelling the cable contract because the $200 fee was cheaper than the $100 monthlies for several months.

Then... Countrywide mysteriously sends me a notice saying that I haven't paid my mortgage in three months and they were going to begin the foreclosure process. What?!? Checked the bank, payments had been made, everything seemed to be in order from my end. Turns out, they "lost" the paperwork for my homeowners insurance and added their branded version into my payment... you know, without actually ever telling me this. Except a homeowners policy through my insurance company was $400 annually, and Countrywide was charging me upwards of $300 a month. And it had been this way for about six months.

Well, the good news is that I didn't have a job, so I could spend the required 20 hours a week, for at least five weeks straight to get all of this straightened out. Somehow managed to land a new job right as soon as my bank started charging me a fee for not having enough money in Savings. Skin of my damn teeth.

After about six months of barely making enough to get by, get another eviction notice. Same thing as previously: they'd didn't have any record of me having homeowners insurance. Since I had a job I couldn't spend the hours on the phone getting things straightened out again. When I did find time to call the person on the phone informed me that my sub-$500 payment was now over $1300 a month because they rolled in not only the homeowners, but escrow as well. Yup, they lost that too, apparently. And not just that, they didn't charge me for one year's taxes, they back charged me for last years taxes and then added escrow for next years taxes again.

The "wonderful" (read: not wonderful at all) customer service agents were no help. My receipts from the city, state, and insurance companies meant nothing to these people. Since it was my second foreclosure (yeah, that's right, they never actually took the first one off the books) the only thing they could offer was some sort foreclosure protection repayment plan, which would have been about $3400 a month (for an $84,000 loan I might add) including taxes and fees. Given the two options I opted to just pay the $1300 a month.

Fast forward two and a half years: I still haven't missed a payment. Get a better job two hours away, find someone to buy the house for exactly what I owe, file paperwork with what at that point was now BofA, who declines the sale because I'm currently in foreclosure. You guessed it, despite the fact that I have never missed a single payment in four years on a mortgage, my account has been in foreclosure status for three and a half years.

Without too many other options I just walked away from the thing. That was almost four years ago now. I had another offer for a short sale, but of course the bank turned that down as well. I haven't set foot in the house in over two years, the mailbox is full, the grass is overgrown and a tree fell on the roof. The city even came in and put warning signs up alerting people to not enter the property because it was too dilapidated. I checked, my name is still on the deed. They apparently don't have the paperwork to officially foreclose on it.

Bonus: I did recently get a settlement check from that 1.4 billion dollar fine that BofA had to pay. It was $248.

TL;DR: Fuck Countrywide. I don't care if the people in this article opted to live out of the back seat of their gold-plated Maybach, eating nothing but caviar and bathing in Grey Poupon for weeks at a time. Countrywide, BofA, and every other bank involved can burn to the ground before I would ever side with them over a customer.

And anybody who says the business of a business is to make money can find a warm spot in hell. Business doesn't HAVE to be like that, it's only that way for the sake of the shareholders who want to see a return on their investment. They could give a damn about the 30,000+ employees that lost their jobs, but heads will roll if they don't get their 5% annual return on their investment.

Fuck Countrywide.
posted by Blue_Villain at 5:20 AM on April 29, 2013 [147 favorites]


Fuck Countrywide.

Well, the larger rebuttal there should pretty much shut down anyone who still wants to blame these people for getting in trouble.

Glad to hear you have managed to do okay in spite of all this, Blue_Villain. Good on you.
posted by smoke at 5:28 AM on April 29, 2013


That gets my first-ever "fantastic" flag, thank you for taking the time to write it out Blue_Villain.
posted by cairdeas at 5:33 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I could create computer viruses as they exist on TV shows, I'd make one that forces people to watch that video of people on the NYC subway repeatedly tripping on that one stair, activated whenever they read a story like this and start nitpicking about how each individual victim of a corrupt system is always at fault because "pride" or "racisms".
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:08 AM on April 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


With regard Blue_Villain's experience, what is the correct protocol to follow in this situation, assuming you've kept all the relevant paperwork so you can prove you've met your end of the agreement. Is is best to hire a lawyer, or just send a letter describing your situation and enclosing proof of your correct behavior? And can you get compensation for the cost of hiring the lawyer if you've done nothing wrong?
posted by DrRotcod at 6:11 AM on April 29, 2013


You betcha, Blue_Villain.

I got 'lucky' and got screwed by .... Chase back in the day when they only owned like 1/6 of the nation's banks instead of 1/3 ...

So I decided (and still do) several things:

1. Never ever let the mortgage company email me ANYTHING. They have to mail it.
2. Never ever let the mortgage company take money out of my account. I pay it. Sometimes I screw up and double pay it, but I hit that button every month.
3. Always, always, always, self escrow home owners insurance and taxes.
4. Check my property records twice a year to make sure they haven't started foreclosure or given someone else a mortgage note or other lien on my property (which has been a problem more than once: four times it was a problem, the final time I camped out during working hours in a lawyer's conference room for several days until they fixed it).

If I hadn't been "that screwed" earlier, I would have been probably screwed up by their screw ups much later and with much more damaging consequences, like you had happen to you. UGH.

But I've been both incredibly lucky and incredibly lucky, both "dumb luck" and semi-decent planning without a long long streak of disasters. But a job loss could easily throw things way the hell out of whack (a mid-length streak did hamper us and get us into "disaster" mode should it happen again). Sure, life insurance is great for hit-by-a-bus, but it's hard to think, "Oh, crap, if we lose a job again, we have to sell a car asap, tune up the bicycle, and start mega selling our old stuff we keep meaning to garage sale/Craigslist ..." just thinking about it makes it panic.

And then I turn on TV and I see State Farm Insurance commercials where people "save money" on their insurance and buy a purse or wish for a sandwich and a hot tub and I weep for the world. These commercials reach for the safety and luxury we crave and eff the consequences ... all this shit these last few decades and it still rumbles on, suckering people into being less embarrassed millionaires ...
posted by tilde at 6:27 AM on April 29, 2013


I'm not positive that there would be anything -I- can do now. I mean, I did receive my $248 compensation from "the settlement". So legally speaking we're even... or something like that.

But I did spend a moderate amount of time looking back then. I mailed copies of everything I had and even talked to several attorneys. The twist was that I needed to find a legal firm that was large enough that they'd have the capital and muscle to fight a bank that was Congresionally identified as too big to fail, but didn't have any legal connections to what was by then BofA. Try living in North Carolina and find some firm that doesn't have a poker in the fire with a bank based out of Charlotte. /notfun

But if you or someone you know has gone through a similar scenario and hasn't been included in a class action settlement already then check with an attorney in your area. IANAL and every scenario is different, only a lawyer that specializes in this sort of thing and is aware of all of the details can give that advice. Once it became public knowledge that banks weren't always on the up and up law firms were jumping at the bit looking for clients like this. I think that demand has somewhat subsided, but it never hurts to ask. Any firm that's worth anything will let you ask the question without charging you a dime.

For my scenario it was just easier to walk away and take the credit hit than it was to spend years in court. YMMV.
posted by Blue_Villain at 6:28 AM on April 29, 2013


With regard Blue_Villain's experience, what is the correct protocol to follow in this situation, assuming you've kept all the relevant paperwork so you can prove you've met your end of the agreement. Is is best to hire a lawyer, or just send a letter describing your situation and enclosing proof of your correct behavior? And can you get compensation for the cost of hiring the lawyer if you've done nothing wrong?
Bwahhahahahahahhahahaaaa. I took four days PTO sit in that conference room and get the mortgage in someone else's name cleared off of my property, and had to pay the lawyers for their time (though I think the other side did ... I was just happy to be shut of the whole situation). Compensation? I just assumed fixing other people's eff ups was the cost of surviving in this world.

I hope that whoever got that mortgage on my property ended up getting their home free because their mortgage company couldn't prove they'd loaned out the money. I really, really do.
posted by tilde at 6:32 AM on April 29, 2013


Now that the formerly-middle-class horse is out of the repossessed barn, so to speak, the Feds are noticing that Countrywide's mortgage practices amounted to "spectacularly brazen" fraud. Nonetheless the Fed is even now printing billions of dollars to lend at near-zero rates to outfits like Bank of America, which just happens to have bought Countrywide's mortgage portfolio. Said outfits (Bank of America being just one example) are lending the money to and/or forming Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). The REITs are taking the cheap money and going on a massive ($100 billion in 2012) binge acquiring low-risk (because government-backed) mortgage securities on the so-called repo market (where repossessed houses end up). These REITs are paying 12-15% dividends, they aren't subject to primary regulation so they can be leveraged up the wazoo (American Capital uses 7 to 8 times leverage - not so risky because government-backed) and they are exempt from Federal income tax as long as they return 90% of the profit to their investors. See? The system works!
posted by jcrcarter at 6:52 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing is, they ARE angry about the system. Bonnie, for example, was clearly enraged and clearly identified the banking system as the source of the problem. How to channel that? I do think it's possible to channel that.

Get more people like Elizabeth Warren into the Senate.
posted by Aizkolari at 7:51 AM on April 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Nonetheless the Fed is even now printing billions of dollars to lend at near-zero rates to outfits like Bank of America

I have not run the numbers, but it seems to me that if the Fed just mailed every American a cheque instead then those billions would (a) help out quite a lot of people and (b) all end up at BofA and friends in short order anyhow. Everybody wins!
posted by flabdablet at 8:13 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


The problem with saying, "Oh, they made this mistake here," (and I'm noticing the same sort of thing in the 401k thread) is that not everyone should have to become experts in the same subjects just to survive and thrive in an enlightened society. If everyone HAS to spend all their free time learning about finance just to not end up penniless, we will have a completely boring and totally non-productive society in short order. There are more things to learn about than money.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:35 AM on April 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


So the issue is people who are really not qualified to own a house being preyed on by predatory lenders.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:42 AM on April 29, 2013


Grr. You don't take out a loan to keep the family afloat. That's like borrowing a shovel to dig your own grave. Sell the effing house!

We moved here right around 2007, and there was a property across the way that had been for sale off and on from shortly after when we moved in 'till about 2012. There's several more near by with a similar story. The housing market in Jeff-co wasn't particularly good at around the time their downward spiral happened.

Plus, it was the house she grew up in, that makes it awfully hard to think rationally about it.
posted by Gygesringtone at 8:43 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


not everyone should have to become experts in the same subjects just to survive and thrive in an enlightened society.

But you need some basic financial literacy to understand a mortgage. The husband was making $9 an hour at a foundry, which indicates that he probably has a high school education, but probably graduated from middle school in about 1965.

The wife would appear to have severe anger management issues which are not going to help her make the right choices. Perhaps she's been through a lot of trauma, and this has contributed to her anger management issues.

It's criminal that a lender... did something (the article never spells out what), but even so we cannot mitigate all risk in society. Sometimes we are responsible for the choices we make.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:46 AM on April 29, 2013


pont: I had the quote you wrote in the back of my mind as I wrote that. Thanks.

Trying to convince the newly poor of the truth of their situation is extremely difficult; I think it may amount to giving up on the American Dream.
posted by jiawen at 8:55 AM on April 29, 2013


If everyone HAS to spend all their free time learning about finance just to not end up penniless, we will have a completely boring and totally non-productive society in short order.

They should teach it in school, is my opinion. I got a fairly decent financial education because my dad, who doesn't know much about money, knows he doesn't know much so throughout my childhood he'd get financial literacy books and leave them on the toilet tank knowing I'd read them and explain them to him. (Which I did. And now I read personal finance books for fun. If you're looking for a good basic budgeting book, check out this one by Elizabeth Warren. Yes, THAT Elizabeth Warren. It's quite good really.)

But if I didn't have the advantage of being a voracious and undiscriminating reader, I would have grown up in a family where budgeting was a vague buzzword, I didn't have an allowance or any real need to manage money, and no idea of how credit cards worked, let alone the sort of complicated mortgages that people tried to sell me when I started looking for a house. You know, like the vast majority of America. I still worry about my parents sometimes. Dad never really got it, I don't think.

I don't think promoting education = victim-blaming. It's not the fault of the uneducated for not knowing they didn't know stuff they probably should have known. They got fucked over because of the intersection of a bunch of systemic problems, and the lack of comprehensive financial education is one of them.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:19 AM on April 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


We moved here right around 2007, and there was a property across the way that had been for sale off and on from shortly after when we moved in 'till about 2012.

The guy across the street from me put his house up for sale, didn't get the offer he wanted, then took it back down.

At some point, though, you have to make a distinction between "get the offer you want to make money on the deal" and "get the offer you need so you can stop paying the mortgage you can't afford."

Unless you're totally underwater, in which case there's no rope to hold onto. That's when you declare bankruptcy and walk away from the mortgage.

But you don't add more debt. That's piling foolish on top of foolish.

If anything, this points to a wider failure of education and continuing adult education. People need to be taught, and continually taught through adulthood, how to manage their money. I bet this family heard a thousand times more PSAs about condoms, drug use and seat belts than about "don't do stupid shit with your money."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:19 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


The guy across the street from me put his house up for sale, didn't get the offer he wanted, then took it back down.

To clarify I'm in the same general area as the folks in the article, I drive by the hotel they're living at a couple times a month. I'm telling you that houses just weren't selling well, even after prices were reduced. These were houses that people actually got ready to sell, new carpet, paint jobs, etc. Somebody who needs to take a loan to make ends meet probably doesn't have the money to do that.

I agree that the loan wasn't a good idea, but I think you're missing a major part of the picture when you think that they could just sell the house.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:31 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think you're missing a major part of the picture when you think that they could just sell the house.

And I think you're missing the point that if you lower a price enough, it'll sell. And you should do that, unless that puts you underwater. Now, that happens, sure. But sometimes, you need to take the sick dog out back and shoot it.

Also, a lot of this is real estate agents urging people to hold on longer than they need to, to ensure that the commission stays high.

This is what makes this so infuriating -- collectively, we can see exactly what happened. But individually, you can also see how bad choices piled on top of bad choices.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:55 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I bet this family heard a thousand times more PSAs about condoms, drug use and seat belts than about "don't do stupid shit with your money.""

God, if only the Ad Council would spend money on that instead of, say, dubious bullshit about digital billboards in LA, I'd forgive them for all the brains-on-drugs bullshit.
posted by klangklangston at 10:13 AM on April 29, 2013


And I think you're missing the point that if you lower a price enough, it'll sell.

Well, sure in an abstract way, that makes sense. But at some point, when the four houses that are on your block have been up for sale for 2 years, with steadily lower asking prices (my property value according to the county had dropped 10% at one point) and you have to sink money you don't have into improvements, it stops doesn't seem worth it to even up the place up for sale. I mean, it's not like you're likely to get the money from it any time in the next year or two, and even when you do, you still got to find a place to live, and that's still going to cost money.

I mean, it's all well and good for you, in a different housing market, with different circumstances, hindsight, and no emotional attachment to the house to sit and make judgements about what they should have done. But what I'm saying is from the perspective of somebody who knows the market where they lived, who was watching places try and sell. I'm telling you it is very hard to look around at what was going on with the housing market then (very few people were buying, and NOBODY was lending) and come to the conclusion that the sensible thing to do was try and sell your house. I imagine it was even harder when it was the house you grew up in.

Was the loan a mistake? It sure seems so, but I'm really not sure trying to sell the house, or just walking away would have led to a much different situation.
posted by Gygesringtone at 10:31 AM on April 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


it seems to me that if the Fed just mailed every American a cheque instead then those billions would (a) help out quite a lot of people and (b) all end up at BofA and friends in short order anyhow. Everybody wins!
Periodic debt crises are a feature, not a bug, of market economies. Bankers make more money when people (and cities, and states) fall into debt peonage. This has been true since the dawn of recorded history. The decision to bail out the banks while evicting and impoverishing the citizens debtors was made by our elected political leaders under pressure from their financial patrons. Alternative strategies like mailing checks to homeowners to pay their mortgages might actually work for the homeowners, but wouldn't be as profitable for the plutocrats, since they wouldn't be able to buy all those repossessed homes at pennies on the dollar using highly leveraged money provided gratis by the Fed. It's as a consequence of these decisions that the money guys are making insane profits right now, even as the middle class disappears and the poor suffer terribly. It may feel good to point at any one affected family and say "look it's their fault for being stupid/greedy/shortsighted/uneducated/gullible/etc" but a) it's disgusting and b) it doesn't help answer the question: what the hell are we going to do about it?
posted by jcrcarter at 10:34 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I take it making the accumulation of obscene wealth a capital crime is out of the question?
posted by flabdablet at 10:46 AM on April 29, 2013


It would certainly make the estate tax debate much more lively.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:54 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why stop there? We can also add to that list anyone who even thinks of making money as an enemy of the state. And what about their children? Can't let them grow up. May as well "kill them all and let God sort them out."

...

I just people would take five minutes to think about their "great" policy suggestions, see where they lead, and if they really want anything even remotely like that.
posted by corb at 11:07 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Spoilsport.

OK, then; what about a progressive income (including realized capital gains) tax with a top marginal rate of 100% that kicks in at $500,000 for a natural person or $500,000 × the number of natural persons sharing ownership for corporate entities?
posted by flabdablet at 11:19 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


My problems are not necessarily with the income of the executives, they should be rewarded appropriately for the jobs they have done. Including being fired and/or going to jail for the actions of their corporation. There has to be risk to compensate for the reward. The reason we have so many psychopath-level bankers is because there is literally no risk in their profit system, there is no way to fail. And failing is nature's way of thinning the herd.

I have serious qualms about rewarding shareholders at the cost of the employees or even the customers. And it's not just about the concept of profiting off the stock market, but any time a company like Sam's Club goes and lays off 10k employees the week before Christmas just so they would make their profit target and their shareholders would see a half percent increase it shows some glaringly obvious flaws in the system.
posted by Blue_Villain at 11:31 AM on April 29, 2013


I've heard a lot of stories about storage units from families who thought they'd be able to make it past this rough spot. Of course, the "obvious" way to maximize utility would be to sell everything, save the rental fees, and put that toward a down payment, other debts, or whatever, but people don't like to sell everything (assuming it would bring a fraction of its replacement value, which often isn't true, especially in a situation where a lot of similar middle-class detritus is going free for the asking), as it's an admission of defeat.

Having been in this exact situation with my family, and having had several people tell me exactly this(although our storage unit was a bit cheaper, maybe 200/mo) i kept saying "ok, then what? who buys it? where do i sell it?" and the answers were basically "just sell it! and throw out/donate everything people don't want".

There is no magical gamestop for random home items. No one wanted most of the furniture, and the people who did wanted it for absolute pennies(think, $20 for a vintage chair i paid very little for and restored, but that had a replacement value of >$1200). You end up in a situation in which your startup costs, once you get a new place, would be VERY high compared to even paying for six months of the storage unit. People showed up and haggled and the only things anyone would buy would have generated maybe $150. We would have had to take a bath on basically the entire contents of our place(most of which i still have, now that everyone has dug out)

Assuming you at least think you have a plausible route out of the fucked situation you're in, wouldn't it make sense to not have to pay to replace all your furnishings, kitchen utensils, etc once you move in to a new place? even if you go the mismatched stuff from goodwill route(which i do advocate, even in times of prosperity honestly) you're still looking at another big chunk of money you'll have to lay out.

I think serious math needs to be done there with costs to store Vs replacement costs, and if it even looks vaguely close to a losing scenario just keep it until it becomes obvious you're going to become underwater on it.

Oh, another thing worth noting is that it's often not easy to unload a storage unit unless you're going to default on it. You need to have a large vehicle, or rent a truck and then take it to the dump. Those places intentionally do not have any kind of garbage or method of disposal on site.

As i said, every bit of advice i see online is almost always ignoring big caveats you can only really see from the ground. And it still touches on the territory of that feeling that i can't escape, that it's just more armchair admiral stuff.

Which i mean, i understand, since people desperately want to feel like "that couldn't happen to me because i'm not stupid! i would have zagged here instead of zigged, and..." but it's still just pretty annoying to read when you've been there, and in the midst of that funk everyone had some bullshit advice to give you, and then was raring to go to resent you and think you were a moron when you didn't instantly follow it, or tried to explain why it was a useless action or something with a very mediocre ROI.
posted by emptythought at 12:32 PM on April 29, 2013 [14 favorites]


I am not in America but in a country generally much more expensive to live in. And your storage units are expensive. Are they taking advantage of desperate people? I have what is equivalent of a home stored right now, and it costs me slightly over 100 dollars a month.

BTW, this is an amazing post and discussion. Thanks
posted by mumimor at 12:58 PM on April 29, 2013


mumimor I have checked out storage in my area, and the prices are thus:

Climate controlled:

5 x 5 x 5 = $40 a month

5 x 5 x 10 =$60 a month

10 x 10 X 10 = $100 a month

20 x 15 x 10 = $250 a month

40 x 15 x 10 = $300 a month

I am a semi-typical overstuffed house person (books, kid toys, years of accumulated furniture and things not garagesaled) and if I tried to pack it all in storage it would be at least $300 a month after culling, with furniture disassembled.

I currently have a storage unit, semi-climate controlled, for $20 a month, about 7x5x10, but it's not 24/7 access, and it's not "sealed off" it's basically "chicken coops" aka storage units designed by subdividing chain link fences into storage space. It's stuff I have slated for selling off as it's outgrown and need to clean it out before my term is up (I tend to keep things longer than I should).

You can search on "self storage" in various locals to get information on pricing.



posted by tilde at 1:06 PM on April 29, 2013


I have a 10x20 unit that I pay roughly $100 a month for. And I had to do a good bit of searching to get one that size at that price.

However, even one at that size is nowhere near large enough for a three bedroom home's worth of stuff.
posted by Blue_Villain at 1:17 PM on April 29, 2013


My problems are not necessarily with the income of the executives, they should be rewarded appropriately for the jobs they have done. Including being fired and/or going to jail for the actions of their corporation. There has to be risk to compensate for the reward. The reason we have so many psychopath-level bankers is because there is literally no risk in their profit system, there is no way to fail. And failing is nature's way of thinning the herd.

What makes a "good" executive, and what makes for a "bad" one? The woman in this morality play was the hereditary owner of a landscaping business. Presumably she had some capital assets, such as a lawnmower, and presumably she got tax breaks for those capital assets. Why is she "good" (according to many of the posters here) but the bank execs "evil"?

I sometimes wonder if some MetaFilter posters have ever spent any time in the real world, but I suppose I would be veering into "get off of my lawn" territory.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:44 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why is she "good" (according to many of the posters here) but the bank execs "evil"?

Because presumably she didn't profit off her customers' misfortunes?
posted by desjardins at 1:57 PM on April 29, 2013


Why is she "good" (according to many of the posters here) but the bank execs "evil"?

Has anyone said she's "good," though? I mean we have no way to know if she's good or not. I think people are saying though, that she was harmed, by people who were behaving in a despicable way when they harmed her. When that happens to a person, we don't generally try to judge if the person was good or evil in ways that are totally unrelated to the situation, to figure out if it was wrong or not for them to be harmed.

But to this point --

The woman in this morality play was the hereditary owner of a landscaping business. Presumably she had some capital assets, such as a lawnmower, and presumably she got tax breaks for those capital assets.

This isn't about "business owners are evil!" or "owners of assets are evil!" or "people who profit from capitalism are evil!"

These bankers engaged in deliberate, outright fraud. Did Bonnie do anything like that with her landscaping business, that we know of? These bankers, with a total lack of conscience, also ruthlessly took advantage of desperate or uneducated people, in order to take the meager assets of those people. I don't think Bonnie, a landscaper, ever did that. These bankers were in a position to completely destroy the lives of millions of individuals. You couldn't do that to a single person with a landscaping business, even if you wanted to. The bankers were in a position to utterly break the backbone of the national economy. In a depraved and sociopathic way, they went ahead and did exactly that, and happily profited from it. EVERYONE, including people who had nothing to do with the mortgage business and could not possibly be blamed for any of it, was impacted by that.

They were in a position to utterly destroy the lives of millions of people, and they didn't care at all, they went ahead and did exactly that, happily, in order to satisfy pure greed. That's why.
posted by cairdeas at 2:54 PM on April 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


I am not in America but in a country generally much more expensive to live in. And your storage units are expensive. Are they taking advantage of desperate people?

(emphasis mine)

This is a seriously complex question. I want to say no, but it's more murky than that.

My storage unit flooded 3 times because of a construction project. The legal bullshit is ongoing, but during that process i found out a lot of interesting info from the management of the place. Including that the entire, ENORMOUS building(5 floors plus a basement, old ford factory) was at 96%+ capacity 24/7/365. Because of this, they charged quite a bit. All the other storage units in the area are apparently similarly packed(and they're basically all owned by the same giant company).

A lot of the renters simply businesses who store extra stock, seasonal stuff, or just online businesses that need a small warehouse to store things they're either going to use as manufacturing supplies or product ready to ship. Businesses, obviously, just throw money at these kinds of things. This drives the price up as well.

You end up in a situation where you're in a contentious argument, as with rent RE: gentrification in that you hit a wall where you're really asking the question "What is a fair rent?" and "Where is the line crossed that a landlord is simply charging market rate Vs somehow taking advantage of people?"

In the end though, despite how frustrating it can be when you're in the line, can you really blame the guy selling ice cream cones for raising the price when he has a line out the door dawn to dusk?

It's very, very easy to get angry when you're in the group getting boned over, or when you're looking at it from their side... but at the same time what are they supposed to do? unless there was some kind of universal market regulation and need based distribution of any sort of rental from housing to storage, then anyone charging a "fair" price would simply be at 100% capacity 24/7 just because they were the cheapest.

cairdeas slam dunks it above when discussing what this isn't about, with relation to this.

I really think the question here shouldn't be "Are they", because the answer is kind of yes... but it's not really their fault. The real question is "What do we really expect them to do", because otherwise it really does kind of come off as aimless frustration at something that is subjectively unfair, but that has no clear solution.
posted by emptythought at 3:52 PM on April 29, 2013


There's a very American narrative of second chances. You fuck up, you pick yourself up, you do better next time; fate conspires to fuck you over but you're not condemned by it. Most of it's myth, of course, but the morality play here seems to be that you only get second (and third, and fourth) chances if you fuck up so spectacularly that the narrative flips to become "you fucked up, you trusted us."

And once again, this is the hallmark of a country born out of a haute-bourgeois insurgency, rather than the radical egalitarianism that came a bit later.
posted by holgate at 4:45 PM on April 29, 2013


I read this awhile back, and was bummed because Bonnie was so unlikeable that I felt it was inevitable that the piece would be dismissed by most who read it. I'm sure the writer is going for accuracy, and I'm sure this is a fair account of what happened, but as a reader it feels more like "look at this train wreck" than consumer advocacy. But the latter is what I wanted the article to be, and that might not square with the writer's intent.

It would have been helpful if the article had gone into just what the bank did wrong. An uncharitable reading could easily lead the reader to think the bank is just one more thing Bonnie is bitter about for no real reason, and I'm sure she has legitimate grievances.

People living in hotels/motels is one of the more depressing things to me about the economic meltdown. I see hotels in Columbus with weekly rates everywhere and I assume they are full of displaced people. I can't imagine it's any way to live. I don't know what the solution is, I suppose it's better than being homeless, but I don't know by how much.
posted by imabanana at 10:09 PM on April 29, 2013


How long, I wonder, until the reemergence of flophouses?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:48 AM on April 30, 2013


Actually, that's a real question I've wondered for a while, especially given the economic situation. What happened to boarding houses/flophouses? It seems like there's certainly a need for them. Is it housing law/code that did away with them?
posted by corb at 7:26 AM on April 30, 2013


What happened to boarding houses/flophouses? It seems like there's certainly a need for them.

Oh, they're still there, in spite of zoning rules and other local laws against non-family cohabitation; it's just that you're not looking hard enough.
posted by holgate at 8:42 AM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have no idea how accurate my impression is of the Depression, not having lived through it, but I didn't think you had to look very hard to find them, so I would guess if you do we're not really at "reemergence" levels...yet.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:48 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Re-emergence? they never went away. They vary from really casual ones where it's just a craigslist rental with an ever rotating cast of roommates, relatively communally managed, and sometimes packed to the point that rent is incredibly below market rate.

And then there's the more questionable ones where it's basically a single family home, but with deadbolts on all the bedroom doors, and all the extra space and common areas turned in to more bedrooms. Those are often very overpriced for what you're actually getting, with extremely shady landlords. The kind of places with little to no deposit, but high monthly rent and bizarre and slumlordy landlords.

My friend lived in one that was really shady. Almost everyone who lived there seemed like they had been kicked out of somewhere else, or were just creepy as hell. And there was one kitchen for like 20 rooms. The hallways and kitchen had IR nightvision cameras the landlord would watch when they were bored, and if you were caught eating someone elses food from the "communal" kitchen you would be evicted.

So to answer you and corb's question, they're out there. You can even find them easily on craigslist.
posted by emptythought at 5:02 PM on April 30, 2013


In the middle of Sydney (where it is 20 years+ since we have had a recession) there are dozens of flyers advertising beds in share rooms in high rise apartments.
The apartments are usually quite new, and fairly luxurious, but when you share a 2br with 3 bunk mates in your room, 4 more in the master, and a guy on the couch, the rent is more affordable.
The slum...er..landlords charge $150 per week each, the full apartment costs them $900/week. Flop houses are good business.
(and the majority of tenants are backpackers/trevellers or asian student visa holders who don't have the local support networks to sort out more equitable living arrangements)
posted by bystander at 9:11 PM on April 30, 2013


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