“Why should we bail out the loser’s mortgages,” Rick Santelli yelled in his proto-Tea Party rant. And ever since, practically everyone in Washington has taken care to say that homeowner relief should only be available for “responsible” homeowners, as if there’s a formula to decide whether someone ripped off by a predatory lender is “responsible” or not.
But there’s actually a good answer for why you want to bail out “the loser’s mortgages,” and it’s rooted in basic economics. Your neighbor’s home value affects yours. And because we’ve had nothing approaching a full response to the foreclosure crisis for the last six years, the resulting wreckage has taken everybody down.
The economic impact of the housing bust on homeowners who live near a foreclosed property comes to about $2 trillion, according to a new accounting by a consumer advocacy group.
In a report released Wednesday, the Center for Responsible Lending estimates that more than half of that “spillover loss” occurred in communities of color, which the study’s authors define as census tracts where more than 50 percent of the residents are Hispanic, African-American or otherwise non-white. Those losses, the authors note, reflect the high concentrations of foreclosures in those neighborhoods.
The study looked only at the indirect impact of foreclosures on properties within one-eighth of a mile of a home in foreclosure. The total loss of home equity since the housing market collapsed is more like $7 trillion, the consumer advocacy group said. That figure doesn’t include additional indirect costs.
The report also shows that the average loss for a home close to a foreclosed property is $21,077, or 7.2% of the total home value. In minority neighborhoods, perhaps because of the high concentration of multiple foreclosures, that number is higher, at $37,084, or 13.1%.
Even this lesser number of $2 trillion in lost wealth from proximity to foreclosures creates a gap that no combination of economic stimulus over the last several years has filled. The housing collapse and the associated collapse in housing wealth alone can account for the sluggish response to the Great Recession. If we didn’t have high budget deficits, we wouldn’t have the modest recovery we have today.
New home sales trended up in September, and the new chic thing to say is that housing has roared back, even though the mortgage purchase and refinance index is backing up, with fewer originations expected next year and a continued giant backlog of shadow REO gathering dust. But even if you buy into the narrative of a housing comeback, this important CRL report shows what a huge headwind to growth housing was for five years, and how it not only directly affected those who lost their homes, but indirectly affected everybody.