stucco apocalypse.The catastrophic news of the day is much like the catastrophic news of the past 18 months or so: OH JESUS, HOUSES, WHAT TO DO? Since the mid 1970s, the answer for many Chicago people has been “Move to some gruesome stucco tract house in a brand-new subdivision about an hour from downtown Phoenix.” So that’s what Barack Obama is doing today: Moving to Phoenix!

Obama will announce his Housing Save shortly, from the “where?” suburb of Phoenix called “Mesa, Arizona.” Mesa is one of those places that had 722 residents in the year 1900. Now, it’s got nearly a half-million people, most of them added since 1980. Like the rest of Phoenix and Las Vegas and San Diego and the “Inland Empire” and the entirety of Florida, Mesa has been foreclosed upon, by Fate.

The administration’s plan is to help 9 million underwater mortgage-holders (it’s unfair to call them “homeowners”) kind of scrape by and maybe figure it out, while about 4 million mortgage-holders will get a fix from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Anything else going on in the Housing Sector this morning? Oh yes!

U.S. builders broke ground in January on the fewest houses on record as a lack of credit and plunging sales exacerbated the worst real-estate slump since the Great Depression.

If it seems like every other news story these days includes the phrase “since the Great Depression,” it’s because it’s true.

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  1. The words “suburban Arizona” always make me think of that trailer park outside of Tempe in Raising Arizona. And that is the most depressing flyer I’ve seen ever…although upon reflection, I guess those “Missing” flyers around Manhattan after 9/11 were more depressing than that.

  2. Aren’t all these crappy mortgages the cause of this economic meltdown in the first place? And if $50 billion in mortgage relief will fix this, Wouldn’t doing this a year ago have obviated the need for the jillions in loan guarantees and bailouts? Oh, wait — there are no tax cuts for the rich in it, so it never would’ve gotten off the ground.

  3. [re=245972]Ken Layne[/re]: It’s impossible to go to Phoenix and not ask yourself, “Why is there a city here?” You could ask the same thing about Barstow, but at least Barstow’s got all that military stuff (Irwin, Twentynine Stumps, China Lake) to be a “bedroom community” for/pork to subsist on.

  4. SayItWithWookies: I’ve been wondering the same thing since early 2008. Wouldn’t it have just been easier (and cheaper) for the gubment to pay off the bad mortgages outright? They can’t possibly add up to the nearly $2 trillion we’ve shelled out between the TARP and the stimulus package.

    Yeahyeah, it’s unAmurcan, and such, what with the idea of helping the homeowner instead of the sleazy banker who made him the bad loan…

    The shitter for me is that there’s a FANTASTIC condo near downtown Norfolk that’s dropped in price by fifty grand since November. But I can’t sell my own damned house to buy it. Makes the teeth grind.

  5. Maybe the home builders broke ground so little because after 8 years of groundbreaking excellence there isn’t much fucking ground left to break, know what I mean? Is it really a bust if the preceding 7 years were a binge worthy of W.C. Fields in a Cleveland whorehouse?

  6. [re=245990]tehbenton[/re]: There was still the problem that the unregulated derivatives market had a value of something like 10x the stock market…. leveraged to the hilt with an indeterminable intrinsic value but still a Grade A Credit rating…

  7. [re=245990]tehbenton[/re]: The so-called “bad mortgages” weren’t the real problem, were they? As I understand it, the real problem was the highly leveraged gambles taken on paper “derived” from those mortgages. Once the margin calls come in, making the mortgage payers solvent and increasing home prices again become quaint ideas of little real practical value, because now the people who placed the original bet owe the man a lot of fucking money.

  8. [re=245967]Texan Bulldoggette[/re]: Not only AZ, but he starts his Save The World Tour in Colorado, a red state going blue, and 29 minutes after he signs the bill the first project goes up–a bridge in Missouri, a state he narrowly lost. 29 minutes.

    Is President Obama (fuck, I still get chills from that) the smartest Democrat in history? And has a smart staff, ‘cuz one person can’t do this alone?

    I’m still pushing my brilliant daughter for Commerce Secretary.

  9. [re=245978]SayItWithWookies[/re]: Yes, and a year ago there were people in charge who operated under the principle of ‘moral hazard’, at least until all their rich friends started going broke because of ‘criminally bad judgement.’

  10. [re=246000]grendel[/re]: [re=246004]Mr Blifil[/re]: Yeah, but the bastards who speculated on margin are the ones who really deserve to go under. It’s not like people who do that haven’t screwed themselves continually throughout history.

  11. [re=246000]grendel[/re]: [re=246004]Mr Blifil[/re]: True that, true that. It reminds me of the anecdote Joe Kennedy used to tell about why he got out of the stock market in the 20s, before the crash. Apparently, the guy who shined his shoes for pennies every day was playing the market, too, and ol’ Joe realized that there was no one of means left to bankroll the inflated stock prices. When a guy with virtually no income could buy in, what was the point? I’m betting the mortgage-backed securities market went through something similar.

    You’d think that, after as many bubbles as we’ve seen in the past hundred-plus years, we’d learn that selling a dollar for ninety-nine cents is a pretty friggin’ stupid idea.

  12. [re=246000]grendel[/re]: [re=246004]Mr Blifil[/re]: JINX! You both said the same thing, right? Probably not, since I have no idea what any of those words you used mean.

  13. “The administration’s plan is to help 9 million underwater mortgage-holders (it’s unfair to call them “homeowners”)…”

    Drawing the distinction between homeowners and mortgage-holders is perhaps one of the best observations about this financial crisis. Naturally David Denby would disagree but he can suck my balls. YEAH!

  14. i have an idea for a new internet startup, … a directory of abandoned properties suitable for squatting. we’ll be selling ads for pork ‘n’ beans, rat guns, and rotgut likker.

  15. [re=246014]grendel[/re]: Yep. Like her loser parents, she’s pathetically honest. Plus, she has kids. Plus, her husband is former Air Force and a blue-collar kind of guy. Plus, she’s worried about her company going under and needs a goddamed job.

    Plus, living in DC would beat living in my bunkhouse and commuting an hour each way to Tulsa. I love my kids but damn, how many of them are going to be moving back home?

    It would be like a total win for my family. And she’s blonde and innocent looking. Plus, she was raised in the Pacific NW so she doesn’t talk like an okie. Big plus, that last one. Paul Krugman would sound like an ignorant hillbilly if he talked like we do, no matter how many Nobel Prizes he had on his mantle.

  16. [re=246024]MahFL[/re]: Oh not only the big house, but they wanted a new and improved swimming pool (it’s an investment you know), the new boobs to go with it, the giant SUV, the tacky LV bags.. the list just goes on and on as to why these people took out second and third mortgages in order to live the “best” life possible. Without really considering that a tacky house 45 minutes from anything in the middle of the desert wasn’t the greatest investment. I should have more sympathy but a lot of those people were just vulgar, greedy, and dumb. It wasn’t about pursuing the dream of homeownership for many of them.

  17. [re=245988]V572625694[/re]: Valley of the Sun FTW. Because any place that has two mountains is a valley, right?

    Phoenix is a festering sore that will be lost in the sands of time as soon as we stop poisoning the local termites.

  18. [re=246088]Gopherit[/re]: well, once the southwest runs out of water, i think the poison will be used by a number of the remaining inhabitants. why does this century look so grim – it has just started.

  19. [re=246109]qwerty42[/re]: Oh, that’s already happening. It just falls like 20th on the list of things to worry about for Phoenix inhabitants, somewhere after dirty bombs and high gas prices.

  20. [re=246109]qwerty42[/re]: if Phoenix had required every new house built in the last ten years to have a solar panel on the roof, the city could power the freakin’ nation.
    As it is, they tear up the Navajo Nation for coal and burn it off I-40.

    Maybe in the end, Phoenix will become one big uninhabited solar power plant.

  21. You know what? Screw those fuckers with their over-priced suburban homes. Those housing developments shouldn’t have been built there anyway. They fucking ruin the Sonoran dessert, among other things. And the only reason they were built there was because of the stupid real estate boom fueled by the stupid derivatives market and the whole thing stinks worse than Ann Coulter’s hoo ha. They should bull-doze all those houses and give the shittards their equity to buy modest condos in the city. Make those stuck up Mid-western transplants live side by side with the Mexicans and they might actually learn some humanity.

    Sorry, I just need to say things, sometimes, that I’m not allowed to say on HuffPo

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