Squatter's Rights

March 30, 2009

Another Angle
Ah, here we go. I knew that eventually it would be either too expensive or too difficult to figure out who owns all these foreclosed homes at all, much less to actually do anything about them. And property taxes pay for things like police, firemen and utilities. So I was wondering when this would start.
By way of introduction, mentioned earlier in an essay called “Feral Cities – The New Strategic Environment”:

In a feral city social services are all but nonexistent, and the vast majority of the city’s occupants have no access to even the most basic health or security assistance. There is no social safety net. Human security is for the most part a matter of individual initiative. Yet a feral city does not descend into complete, random chaos. Some elements, be they criminals, armed resistance groups, clans, tribes, or neighborhood associations, exert various degrees of control over portions of the city. Intercity, city-state, and even international commercial transactions occur, but corruption, avarice, and violence are their hallmarks. […] The city’s structures range from once-great buildings symbolic of state power to the meanest shantytowns and slums. Yet even under these conditions, these cities continue to grow, and the majority of occupants do not voluntarily leave.

In the March 30th New York Times:

City officials and housing advocates here and in cities as varied as Buffalo, Kansas City, Mo., and Jacksonville, Fla., say they are seeing an unsettling development: Banks are quietly declining to take possession of properties at the end of the foreclosure process, most often because the cost of the ordeal — from legal fees to maintenance — exceeds the diminishing value of the real estate.
The so-called bank walkaways rarely mean relief for the property owners, caught unaware months after the fact, and often mean additional financial burdens and bureaucratic headaches. Technically, they still owe on the mortgage, but as a practicality, rarely would a mortgage holder receive any more payments on the loan. The way mortgages are bundled and resold, it can be enormously time-consuming just trying to determine what company holds the loan on a property thought to be in foreclosure.
In Ms. James’s case, the company that was most recently servicing her loan is now defunct. Its parent company filed for bankruptcy and dissolved. And the original bank that sold her the loan said it could not find a record of it.

I wonder if you’d taken Marx or Lenin aside and told them just wait, the capitalists, the oligarchs and the plutocrats, they’ll build themselves a house of cards tall enough to blot out the sun. And when a great wind finally brings it all to earth, the entire idea of ownership will be brought down with it. Don’t fight them; wait. Wait, and they’ll eat each other. They would have said you were mad.