Bits of unconnected, decontextualized, and impersonal statistics framed my understanding of the mortgage crisis as I began working on the Foreclosure Project with the mindset that I would be documenting tragic occurrences of a time passed. As I settled in, however, I came across a report titles Underwater America (Haas Institute). The report’s authors list numerous facts about the effects of the American Housing Crisis of 2008, all of which are severe and compelling. They argue that contrary to popular belief, a large percentage of households that were adversely affected by the Housing Crisis are still experiencing mortgage and property value hardship, and that such hardships have had and continue to have a disparate racial impact.
The report found that “[i]n 71 of the 100 hardest-hit cities, African Americans and Latinos account for at least 40% of the population.” Additionally, “more than 9.8 million households, representing 19.4% of all mortgaged homes, were still underwater on their mortgages as of December 31, 2013.”
How would Durham County compare to this harsh statistics? And is this depiction, or this language, or just this contextualized view of the housing crisis enough to give the painful effects a face?
Fortunately Durham and surrounding counties were not among the areas most severely affected by the Great Recession/ Housing Crisis of 2008. The average foreclosure rate by census tract, out of all mortgaged homes, was less than two percent. However, while Durham County fared better than many other areas in the country, there did seem to be a racial disparity among those census tracts most severely affected.
The Poverty Center looked at a sample of foreclosures from 2012 and found that the census tract with the highest foreclosure rate at 13% had an African American population percentage of 70%.
Although perhaps initially jarring, measurements of this severity tend to have a numbing effect when they are cited as frequently as they are on a national scale. How do we make these numbers continuously meaningful, impactful and urgent? Even more generally, how do we make poverty less anonymous and impersonal?
Posted by Racheal V. Hammond on Sun. March 1, 2015 11:25 PM