Sunday, March 10, 2013

Houses Without People, People Without Houses

There are a lot of homeless people in America, but it's been estimated that, for every homeless American, there may be as many as five empty houses:

Why isn't the obvious solution being tried? Because when people take a closer look, it's not a solution at all. While anybody can become temporarily homeless, most of us don't stay in those situations very long. When people are homeless even long enough to be noticed as being homeless, their problems usually go far beyond simply not owning any real estate. There are usually obvious reasons why they don't have friends or relatives with whom they can stay. Being homeless causes people to be grimy, angry, and mildly paranoid, but that doesn't even begin to describe the condition of most homeless Americans. If you handed these people keys to houses, some of them would be likely to burn down the houses, and others of them wouldn't remember what keys are for and would throw them away. A very small percentage of homeless Americans are simply poor. Most have enough brain damage that they'll probably never be able to keep jobs or homes of their own; they need a lot of help to survive.

So it's not a simple matter of pairing houses with people. But if you click on that "more below the ad" button, the cluelessness of the comments is mind-blowing. The people who could and should be living in America's abandoned houses have been herded into rental housing projects, where they're wasting on rent the money they should be able to use to own separate houses with gardens and adequate growing space for children. Somebody proposes, by way of a solution, making it illegal to rent out housing. So help help us all.

The incredible thing is that nobody proposes that the banks that have emptied the houses could just voluntarily acknowledge the reality of a recession, lower payments for the duration, and encourage the people to whom they sold these houses ten or twenty years ago to finish paying off the houses. I know that's not the way banks typically behave, but it's physically possible that banks could try doing what private people who rent out or sell houses are doing, for their own good and everyone else's. So it takes a little longer for a renter to pay off a building. So what? Isn't it better for someone to keep paying you the seller some money every month as long as you live, even if they go on making tiny monthly payments to your grandchildren, rather than for you to throw out a renter or would-be buyer, not find another one, and lose your whole investment altogether?

I'm not sure what the moral is. Maybe "Buy houses only from individuals, and get a good real estate lawyer to make sure you've drawn up a workable contract that leaves the money-grubbing banks out of the deal."

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Barrette offers a poem about the situation:

Any more thoughts out there, Gentle Readers?