5:53pm

Wed September 5, 2012
Crisis In The Housing Market

Democratic Convention Draws Troubled Homeowners

Originally published on Wed September 5, 2012 7:03 pm

Charlotte, N.C., host of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, is the nation's biggest financial center outside of New York. But Charlotte and surrounding Mecklenburg County have the highest foreclosure rates in the state, and many thousands of homeowners owe more on their homes than the properties are worth.

As thousands of Democrats converge in Charlotte for the convention, some troubled homeowners have also gathered, lamenting that the foreclosure crisis has not been sufficiently front and center in the presidential campaign.

Mike Shane and 40 other homeowners bused down from Detroit Sunday to protest in the long shadow of the towering Bank of America headquarters in Charlotte.

"My neighborhood is devastated by foreclosures," Shane says. "I live on a block that, at one time, seven out of 19 houses were in foreclosure."

Shane and others from the Moratorium NOW! Coalition want Obama to use his powers to halt foreclosures.

"I'm underwater," Shane says. "I owe $120,000, and houses one or two houses [away] from me are selling now for [$10,000] to $20,000."

'Disgusted With Both Parties'

Shane, an engineer for an automaker, says his beloved city of Detroit has gone to waste as housing prices have fallen and people have lost their jobs. With the presidential candidates more or less mum on the subject, he says, he's still searching for someone to vote for.

"I'm actually quite disgusted with both parties," Shane says. "I think they're captive of the big banks and the financial interests of this country."

Shane is current on his mortgage. But a few miles from the protests downtown, Charlotte resident Jessica Sanchez and her family face worse circumstances.

Jessica has spina bifida and other medical problems that keep her in a wheelchair. When her parents bought their house a dozen years ago, they customized it with a ramp, new doors and other changes to meet Jessica's needs.

But now, they may have to leave the home. The family fell behind on the mortgage paying her medical bills, and now the bank is preparing to foreclose. For the past year, Jessica's Spanish-speaking parents have relied on her English translations to help fight to keep the house.

"My mom and dad are trying to fight with the bank," Jessica says. "They're trying to take it away because we owe $20,000. They want $20,000 by Sept. 14."

The family is hosting a barbecue to raise money and awareness. So far, they've raised just over $400 selling food and washing cars.

And at 17, Jessica has become a teen expert conversant in the family's mortgage and personal finances.

"We pay the house, or we pay my medical bills and my medicine," she says. "Or we buy food, because we can't do everything at the same time."

To Jessica, Washington, D.C., is a city she once visited for a fifth-grade school trip. She fondly recalls Ford's Theatre and the Lincoln Memorial. But Jessica does not consider Washington the place where she will find solutions to her family's dire housing situation.

"Everybody in the United States should be living in a home, under a roof," she says, fighting tears. "Not on the roads, asking for money."

As November Approaches, Votes On The Line

Outside on the porch, fellow Charlotte resident David Johnson is here in solidarity with the Sanchez family. Johnson is one of 14 million homeowners across the country who are underwater. He's had sporadic work since losing his construction job two years ago, and eventually, he could no longer afford his home loan. But the bank would only modify it, he says, if he fell behind on payments. So he did, but the new payments were still too high.

Now, Johnson and his family stand to lose their home in November — just after the presidential election.

"The Obama administration didn't do what they needed to do," Johnson says. "They put programs together and they put them out there. They just didn't put enough controls on it where it made a difference in my personal situation. So yes, that will affect my vote in November, for sure."

Even so, Johnson says, it's not as though Republican candidate Mitt Romney is discussing housing, either.

"I don't hear it talked about nearly enough," Johnson says.

He says he recently found construction work, but even that is bittersweet.

"The only thing that's getting funded to be built is apartment houses," he says. "You know why that is? It's for all the people that are getting foreclosed on, and that's a shame."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

As the president makes his case for another term, one of his biggest challenges is the ongoing housing crisis. And Charlotte, host of this week's convention, has been hit especially hard. The city and surrounding county have the highest foreclosure rates in the state and many thousands of homes there are now worth less than the mortgages on them. As NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports, that has many in Charlotte and around the country wondering why politicians on both sides aren't talking more about the issue.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: Mike Shane(ph) and 40 other homeowners bussed from Detroit to protest at this convention, here in the long shadow of Bank of America's skyscraping headquarters.

MIKE SHANE: Oh, yeah, my neighborhood's devastated by foreclosures. I live on a block that at one time, seven out of 19 houses were in foreclosure.

NOGUCHI: Shane and others from the Moratorium NOW! Coalition want President Obama to use his powers to halt foreclosures.

SHANE: I'm underwater. I owe 120,000 and houses - one or two houses for me are selling now for 10 to $20,000.

NOGUCHI: Shane an engineer for an automaker says his beloved city has gone to waste as housing prices fell and people lost their jobs. With the presidential candidates more or less mum on the subject, he says he's still searching for someone to vote for.

SHANE: I'm actually quite disgusted with both parties. I think they're captive of the big banks and the financial interests of this country.

NOGUCHI: Shane is current on his mortgage, but here in Charlotte, a few miles away, Jessica Sanchez's family faces worse circumstances. Her family is hosting a barbeque to raise money and awareness. Jessica has spina bifida and other medical problems that keep her confined to a wheelchair, which means this house had to be customized when her parents bought it a dozen years ago.

She shows me the ramp to the ranch-style house and her bedroom, which also required changes to meet her needs.

JESSICA SANCHEZ: It has big doors 'cause they were, like, small. My wheelchair couldn't fit.

NOGUCHI: For the last year, Jessica's Spanish-speaking parents have relied on her English translation to help fight to keep their home. The Sanchez's fell behind on their mortgage paying her medical bills and now the bank is preparing to foreclose.

SANCHEZ: My mom and dad are trying to fight with the bank so they won't take it away 'cause we owe $28,000. They want $20,000 by September 14th.

NOGUCHI: So far, they've raised just over $400 selling food and washing cars. At 17, Jessica Sanchez has become a teen expert, conversant in the family's mortgage and personal finances.

SANCHEZ: We pay the house or we pay my medical bills and my mother says or we buy food because we can't do everything at the same time.

NOGUCHI: To Jessica, Washington, D.C. is a place she visited on a school trip in fifth grade. She fondly recalls Fords Theater and the Lincoln Memorial. But for her, Washington is not the place where solutions are found to her family's dire housing situation, and that brings her to tears.

SANCHEZ: Every family in the United States should be living in a home, under a roof, not on the road asking for money.

NOGUCHI: Outside on the porch, fellow Charlotte resident David Johnson is here in solidarity with the Sanchez family. Johnson has had sporadic work since losing his construction job two years ago. He says his bank wouldn't modify a loan he could no longer afford unless he fell behind on payments. So he did. But the new payments were still too high and now his family stands to lose their home in November, just after the presidential election.

DAVID JOHNSON: The Obama administration didn't do what they needed to do. They put programs together and they put them out there, but they just didn't put enough controls on it where it made a difference in my personal situation. So yes, that will affect my vote in November, for sure.

NOGUCHI: At the same time, Johnson says it's not as though Republican Mitt Romney is discussing housing either.

JOHNSON: I don't hear it being talked about nearly enough.

NOGUCHI: Johnson appears weary and flinches when he talks, as if my questions hurt him physically. He says his children are appalled he talks about the issue at all. Johnson says he recently found construction work but even that is bittersweet.

JOHNSON: The only thing that's getting funded to be built is apartment houses. You know why that is? It's for all the people that are getting foreclosed on. And that's a shame. That's a shame.

NOGUCHI: Johnson is just one of 14 million homeowners across the country who are underwater.

Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Charlotte. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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