In real estate boom, one mother took a chance on the American dream -- and lost big
by Donna St. George
The motel room seemed to shrink as days wore on, and their belongings bulged from its one dresser and closet. Papers. Clothes. Hair accessories. Room 267 had become a cramped way station for a family of four, far from what Daverena White had in mind when she decided to buy a house.
Back then, in 2006, before the country's housing bust and mortgage crisis, before the recession hit and jobs fell away, White settled on a four-bedroom colonial along the rolling landscape of Clarksburg, in Washington's outer suburbs. She imagined her three youngest children growing up there. It was the first house that White had ever owned.
But this was where that decision had led: to a bleak winter of foreclosure and homelessness and finally this crowded motel room where White had lost count of how many days she and her children had awakened there, hoping for something better.
Now, on a sunny afternoon this past May, White answered her cellphone. The children had climbed off their school bus 20 minutes earlier, and the motel television flashed with cartoons. Suddenly the sound of her voice filled the room.
"Thank you so much," she said. "Thank you so much!"
She hung up. "Yes!" she yelled. "Yes! Yes!"
Her teenage daughter started to cry.
It was her youngest who pressed her. "Are we moving?" he asked. The 5-year-old was serious, almost urgent. "I want to go now."
As the recession shows signs of easing and the economy begins to recover, the families most affected by it, such as Daverena White's, are starting to recover, too.
But recovering is not the same as recovered. As White has come to understand, it can take years -- whether it's an economy, a bank or a single mother of four who wanted a house. Now she knows that. But as all of this began in the heady days of the mortgage boom, she didn't. She only knew that there seemed to be possibilities, even to those with little means such as herself, which is how a woman who had never paid more than $700 a month in rent and who had relied in recent years on Section 8 housing vouchers suddenly owned a house.
A four-bedroom house.
With 3 1/2 bathrooms. And walk-in closets, black granite countertops and a fireplace.
And a sale price of $698,000.
How White was able to buy this house -- and the havoc that doing so wrought -- is the story of a moment in time when all of the old rules about home-buying suddenly disappeared. It happened even though smart people knew better. It happened in White's case even though the college-educated day-care provider knew deep down that she was not ready. In the expansiveness of the boom, it was easy to believe. And tens of thousands of people did... Read the whole article.
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- Fr. Christopher George Phillips
- Fr. Phillips is the founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, the first Anglican Use parish, established on August 15, 1983. Not that there is any confusion, but he is on the left, shown in his younger, less gray-headed days.