Foreclosure: Dismantling Family Ties

By Janis Bowdler 6-15-2010

A recent study authored by National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the Center for Community Capital at the University of North Carolina found that family bonds were profoundly distressed after experiencing foreclosure. We are deeply concerned about what will come of this foreclosure generation and what it means for the nation if families continue to lose their homes. The following is the story of the Nogales family.

On the west coast of Florida, the Nogales family has been split up by foreclosure. Ms. Nogales, a single mother who has a 17-year-old daughter and two sons, ages 18 and 25, experienced a loss in income that triggered a series of events ending in foreclosure.

"First, it was a loss of income. Second, my mortgage loan actually increased because of taxes, which, of course, put me behind because with my less income and my mortgage [going] up, I was not able to pay it, the adjustable loan. I had homeowner's [association] dues, too, and they all went up."

Foreclosure triggered contention between the family members. Faced with eviction, the mother moved into her sister's home. However, the home was too small to accommodate her two older boys, so they were forced to move out on their own with little warning and before they were financially prepared to do so. This separation created conflict, anxiety, and feelings of guilt. Ms. Nogales describes the tension:

"Well, for one thing, I think my boys are jealous because I'm providing for [my daughter] and not helping them out. So of course they're jealous... My daughter and I have moved in with my sister, which I never thought I would ever have to do. Never thought I would be living with my sister at this age. One of the boys comes and stays periodically with me and with a friend and the other one stays with a friend."

She goes on to express concerns about her son's anger:

"My 18-year-old has been in trouble with fighting... But not with the other son, with other people...He has a lot of anger."

The foreclosure has hindered her daughter's education and emotional state. After the family lost their car due to financial difficulties, her daughter had no other means to get to school. She was forced to transfer to an online program to complete high school. Removed from her friends and social network, the daughter became withdrawn and depressed.

Ms. Nogales' extended family used to help each other during hard times. Unfortunately, the entire family is now struggling financially.

"My parents are still here and their house actually is in the process of probably going into foreclosure. So it could end up where about seven of us are all living in one place and, of course, we won't even know where that is yet, depending on the house with my sister. Ours is like a domino effect. It's like one went into foreclosure, then another one, because we're all trying to help each other financially. But we're having to not pay this to help pay that to keep this house and it just gets -- it worked for a little while. It's not working anymore."

Ms. Nogales is concerned about the extinction of the American Dream. She worries about how this economic crisis promises a very difficult start for the next generation entering the workforce and the housing market.

"I think my kids are just finally looking at it going, 'Oh, my gosh. We thought we were going to have [the American Dream].' I mean they're seeing [the dream vanish], too. They're seeing me struggle.

I don't think [the American Dream] is available and likely to happen for a lot of people. I feel bad for these people that come out of college. My kids are going to be going into college, hopefully. I don't know what kind of future they're going to have with being able to come out of school. I feel scared for them and sorry for them for what the next 10 years are going to be like for our youth."

Unfortunately, many more families will suffer this way before the foreclosure crisis subsides. In fact, 1.3 million Latino families are expected to lose their homes between 2009 and 2012. The Nogales family's story is just one among millions. By sharing their story, we hope to give a face to a crisis often glossed over by complicated economic theories and staggering statistics.

portrait-janis-bowdlerJanis Bowdler is the Deputy Director of the Wealth-Building Policy Project, National Council of La Raza. This blog is posted in partnership with NCLR.

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