Two campers on Mt. Diablo were struck by lightning the other night. They were occupying the campground in the middle of a thunderstorm, because they had no place to go. Their home had been foreclosed.
This foreclosure lightning bolt has struck several times in my Oakley neighborhood. It felt like a ghost town for awhile. Years later, the house across the street is still empty. Down the block and around the corner, several more.
Most often, we only get the numbers. We know, for instance, that 1.2 million California homeowners have been foreclosed since 2008. What we seldom get are the stories behind the numbers, like that of the two campers on Mt. Diablo or friends and neighbors who couldn't keep up with the balloon payments on homes going underwater faster than Titanic.
Few, if any, lifeboats were available for these people but it's a different story if you're well-placed. Last fall the Oakley City Council, with one lone dissent, voted a $366,000 bailout on our city manager's taxpayer-funded, underwater mortgage. This came after the Council had suspended his payments when the manager, who makes around $200,000, cried poor. Indeed, he was so poor that, according to the Contra Costa Times, he bought another home with the money from the payments he didn't have to make.
But where was the forgiveness of my neighbors' loans? Under intense public pressure the Council rescinded the deal, but the damage to public trust had been done.