Too Many Foreclosed Homes: Cause of Decaying Texas Suburbs
Large numbers of vandalized and graffiti-damaged foreclosed homes have been causing blight in suburban neighborhoods, such as Sterling Green South in Texas.
Sterling Green South, one of several developments on the periphery of Houston, Texas, is just one of many neighborhoods across the country experiencing deterioration because of too many foreclosed homes. Walls of abandoned foreclosed homes are sprayed with graffiti, playground equipment and street signs are destroyed and a nearby swimming pool is covered with litter.
Sam Campbell, president of the Sterling Green South Homeowners Association, said many of the foreclosed homes in the area have been bought by investors at low prices and rented out to low-income tenants. He however is frustrated that many of the investors do not make the necessary repairs before the foreclosed homes are rented out. He also says that landlords do not pay fees for the use of swimming pools, causing frustration in renters’ children who release their anger by vandalizing the swimming pools.
According to Texas-based Crawford Realty Advisors and Foreclosure Information and Listing Service, almost 2 percent of homes in Sterling Green South became foreclosed homes in 2008 and median home prices fell by nearly 19 percent. Texas is among the top ten in RealtyTrac’s list of state foreclosures in 2008.
One bright point for the redevelopment of Sterling Green South is the inclusion of the area as one of Texas neighborhoods to be rehabilitated under the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Sterling Green South, along with other neighborhoods in Fort Bend County and in Houston, was chosen for its record in defaults, foreclosures and in subprime loans.
John Walsh, head of the University of Houston System’s real estate planning division, said the lack of job opportunities, public services and amenities lead to the decay of suburbs. Lack of civic leadership and efficient infrastructure worsens the situation. In many developments along the Farm-to-market 1960 road corridor, traffic congestion downed residential property values and led to many foreclosed homes.
Walsh also said large numbers of foreclosed homes are concentrated in low-income areas because many buyers purchased houses to get hold of the American dream despite poor credit records and limited incomes. Many brokers who were only looking at sales commissions did not care whether buyers can really afford the monthly mortgage payments.
To hasten the rehabilitation of Sterling Green South and lessen the bad effects of foreclosed homes, Harris County administrator Sylvia Garcia and neighborhood leader Campbell have been working together to facilitate improvements in the neighborhood. Campbell has been campaigning for more resident involvement, payment of homeowners’ association contributions, management of trash and prevention of vandalism. Campbell plans to ask Center Point Energy for more street lights and to ask Garcia and the county’s sheriff for more law enforcement officers in the neighborhood.
By Cassiano Travareli