Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Forclosures: What was the question again?

My neighbor just adopted a dog named Molly. She is a retriever mix (with emphasis on mix) from the Humane Society. The Humane Society got the dog from a couple who gets the dogs from shelters in southern California (this dog is from San Diego) which are overrun with animals which people have had to give up because they have lost their homes in the foreclosure crisis. This couple (and apparently there are many such Good Samaritans) go to shelters and get dogs that are about to be euthanized (this dog was one day away from death), rescue them and bring them to the Bay Area where there are more possibilities for adoption. This dog was apparently given up by a woman who lost her job, then her home, and has left California. The dog is adorable and very well behaved. Clearly her former owner provided her a good home in the years she had a home.

Now this woman’s home sits empty and eventually it will be auctioned for a fraction of what she paid. I look at this dog and think of the agony in just this one story. I imagine this woman I do not know. She has a steady and decently paying job and manages to buy a house. She feels settled down enough to go to a shelter and adopt a puppy. A year passes and now with the puppy full grown, she loses her job. A few months later with her unemployment is running out and her savings are gone, she can no longer pay her mortgage. She has to leave her house. She makes a difficult decision to give up the dog rather than try to keep it with her. She has lost almost as much as people do in a military invasion.

What is a commons solution to helping people keep their private property, particularly when the scale of foreclosure is so large? There are many creative solutions being proposed, but any solution must begin with the person affected at the center and not the bank. “What will help this woman and her dog stay in her home?” is a very different question from “What should a bank do with a person who can’t pay her mortgage?” The first step in transforming this economy is to ask entirely different questions.

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