The Housing Chronicles Blog: Postcards from the recession: Inland Empire

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Postcards from the recession: Inland Empire

Over the last few weeks since the Obama inauguration, as the stock market continues to tank and economists can't agree on what to do, I've noticed an increase in people's anxiety levels (including mine, which I address with trips to the health club). In the past if you complained to an employee, you'd get a polite apology. Now they yell back or simply ignore it.

In the Inland Empire, there's already a breakdown in civil order starting - something that's already being seen in England and other European countries (wait until Spain's unemployment level hits 20%).

This is a level of generalized anxiety I've never seen in my adult lifetime. And when a woman hangs herself rather than getting evicted from her rental home, you know things are different. From an L.A Times story:

At night, I can hear the soft thumps as the rats land on my roof. They launch themselves from the branches of the apricot tree because they want to get inside my attic, into a house with heat...

Last week, a woman stole a pair of shoes right off my neighbor Maria's front porch. Maria woke her son, who ran down the street and confronted the woman. She threw the shoes back at him. After a pair of clippers disappeared from my yard, I've started taking ladders and anything else of possible worth inside at night...

Last year, after the price of copper skyrocketed, metal theft was rampant; thieves stole catalytic converters from parked cars, brass plaques from headstones and monuments, faucets and bushings from fire hydrants, copper wire from schools and parks. Thieves strip foreclosed homes, identifying them by "Bank Owned" signs in the dead lawns. Water heaters, copper pipes, electrical equipment -- all torn from walls and floors, homes destroyed.

I haven't slept well for about a year. For a while, I woke up at night to check on my daughter's Honda, which was broken into repeatedly. We knew it was a prime target. But recently it was stolen from in front of her friend's house, in the 15 minutes she left it to go inside...

Down the block, my neighbors -- waitresses and home day-care workers and contractors and retired people -- are all nervous about whether they'll have jobs tomorrow. One neighbor sold many of her belongings last year in a series of yard sales, trying to make house payments; her husband, an adult-education teacher, was furloughed for the summer, and his hours for this school year were cut. They are filing for bankruptcy.

A few days ago, police were at Maria's; someone had tried to carjack her son at gunpoint for his truck...

Earlier that morning, police arriving to evict a woman found her dead. A woman in her 30s, in a rental house, who'd lost her job some months before and was being evicted, had hanged herself.

And this is just one person's story.

1 comment:

Brad Yzermans said...

I live in the Inland Empire and agree there may be more stress here due to the housing crunch. This is due to a large percentage of people who work in the construction industry. My area of Temecula, Murrieta, & Menifee is littered with Real Estate agents, Mortgage Loan Officers, and people who's lives depend on the housing industry. I think this article must refer to the poorest of poor neighborhoods.