60 Minutes: Another Good Reason To Occupy Foreclosed Homes?

Yet another good reason to occupy the homes: Foreclosure thieves have gone high tech. They know when evictions are occurring because they're posted online. And they will follow the sheriff. They're usually there that afternoon or that evening. 60 Minutes looks at how people in Cleveland, Ohio are dealing with the growing blight left by foreclosure and the scavengers who prey on the vacant homes.

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Yet another good reason to occupy homes: Foreclosure thieves have gone high tech. They know when evictions are occurring because they're posted online. And they will follow the sheriff. They're usually there that afternoon or that evening.

Across America, recession-fueled foreclosures and plummeting home values have left countless properties abandoned and vulnerable to looting. As Scott Pelley reports in the above video, the problem has gotten so bad in Cleveland, Ohio, that county officials have demolished more than 1,000 homes this year - and plan to demolish 20,000 more - rather than let the blight spread and render nearby homes worthless.

Jim Rokakis, a former county treasurer, explains why to 60 Minutes:

Jim Rokakis: We're looking at a neighborhood that has almost as many vacant houses awaiting demolition as there are houses with people living in them. We have one here. One here. One here. One there.

Rokakis is leading the effort to tear down thousands of abandoned homes because they're rotting their neighborhoods from the inside out. It often starts, he told us, when a vacant house becomes an open house to thieves.

Scott Pelley: It's a nice house from the roof to about here. And then down here it's been ripped to pieces. What's goin' on?

Rokakis: Well this is typical because this is as high as they could reach without using ladders. They ripped off the aluminum siding, which you'll see on most of these houses. The aluminum and the vinyl siding comes off. It's getting' about a buck a pound.

Pelley: Essentially foreclosure scavengers have been through here?

Rokakis: The thieves have gone high tech. They know when evictions are occurring 'cause they're posted online. And they will follow the sheriff. They're usually there that afternoon or that evening.

CBS reports that 11 million homeowners are said to be "underwater," or owing more than their house is worth. It's believed that even more neighborhoods would fall into ruin if it weren't for the people who refuse to walk away from their homes, even it might be best for them financially.

Pelley speaks with Linda Bizzelle of Cleveland, who has refused to give up on her home:

Her house is worth 50,000, she owes a hundred. A financial planner might tell her to put something away for retirement rather than pay a mortgage that will never recover. Especially, since she lost her job in nursing last April.

Pelley: What have you been cutting back on?

Bizzelle: Sometimes food. I would go to the food bank in order to make up the difference, so that I wouldn't be completely hungry. Sometimes I wouldn't get my medications renewed and I would have difficulty with that because I really need my medications. I take medication for high blood pressure. And my doctor could always tell when I didn't take 'em and I said, "Oh no, you can't do that. No No."

Pelley: You're living on unemployment right now?

Bizzelle: Yes.

Pelley: What about the next mortgage payment?

Bizzelle: I'm gonna pray. That's the best I can do. I'm gonna pray that I find a job.

More homeowners like Linda Bizelle in the program, and you can view the entire transcript online here.

Part 2 of the video below the fold.

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About Diane Sweet

Diane Sweet's picture
Senior Editor, Lives in a gerrymandered district in Michigan.

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