Thursday, January 3, 2008

Another nail in the coffin . . .

. . . that holds the "American Dream." Check out this story in the New York Times. It's rather ironic that the company that gave us the modern, postwar suburb in the form of Levittown is now one of the first large building companies to declare bankruptcy as a result of the recent sub-prime mortgage crisis. Enhancing this sense of irony is the company's recent practice of showing movies of happy homeowners, circa 1950, standing proudly in front of their newly finished Levittown, NJ, homes. (In fairness to the memory of William Levitt, one should note that the current incarnation of the company has no direct connection to the family which shepherded the postwar revolution in American housing.)

Until now, the crisis has affected only the financial institutions which had engaged in predatory loan practices to entice home buyers. But now, as the market for new homes has dwindled, builders - as well as the subcontractors and suppliers who support them - are facing the trickle-down effects of the crisis. One suspects that Levitt & Sons will not be the last major builder to close its doors.

Of course, the real victims in all of this are those buyers who didn't understand fully the intricacies of what they were signing when they joyfully accepted the loan terms. And by many accounts, the loan companies didn't want buyers to understand the dangers of adjustable mortgages and dramatically rising payments. Representing the 21st century equivalents of 1950s and 60s suburbanites who escaped cities and apartment living, these new homeowners - many of them immigrants and minorities - thought they had achieved the "American Dream." Now they face foreclosure and, potentially, homelessness. Why haven't we heard any of the presidential candidates, Republican or Democrat, addressing this issue with more than tacit acknowledgement that there's a problem?

1 comment:

Patricia J. Mosca said...

It is getting harder and harder to maintain a life of the "American Dream" for many of us..between mortgages rising, food costs and lets not even get into gas prices...our golden years are less than what we had hoped for!
So why isn't ANYONE trying to figure out how to save AMERICAN DREAMS?!?!