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Paul Kiesel
Paul Kiesel
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California's Housing Turns Deadly

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As foreclosure rates continue to rise throughout Southern California, now its citizens have to deal with another problem due to the foreclosure crisis: The West Nile virus.

The two, foreclosures and a deadly virus, don’t appear to be bedfellows, however, due to so many homes being foreclosed over the last year and the lack of maintenance by the former owner or the bank to keep the properties in decent shape (particularly the maintenance of pools on the property), there has been the highest occurrence/cases of West Nile virus in the Southern California area since it arrived in America back in 1999.

Since its arrival, the virus has infected 2,300 people in the State of California — 76 cases were fatal. Orange County officials say this summer has been the worst season to date. Last year, officials had only discovered nine birds that had been killed by the virus, and they were also unable to find an infected mosquito. This year, they’ve found 219 infected birds and 75 infected mosquitoes.

The Economist has an interesting piece on this problem and the article’s introduction paints a picture that is becoming a more common ramification of the mortgage meltdown in Southern California.

The empty house, in a middle-class corner of southern California, is two storeys high and boasts a three-car garage. Roses bloom around a kidney-shaped swimming pool, which is green with algae. Bill Bobbitt, a county inspector, dips a ladle into the water and brings up half a dozen wriggling larvae. Mosquitoes, and the West Nile virus that some of them carry, are thriving in California’s plunging property market. (Economist.com, 7/31/08)

Fortunately, the State of California and Governor Schwarzenegger passed a major bill that is designed to help prevent more home foreclosures. The governor signed it into law a few weeks ago.

There is a key provision on the bill that requires lenders to maintain property that is sitting empty after a foreclosure. In effect, the provision will curb lenders from immediately foreclosing on a person’s mortgage, and prompt the lender — or at least give some moderate incentive to the lender — to work out a deal with the borrower. Since this law has just gone into effect, it’ll take some time to see the positive results, however, one of the indicators that it’s working — helping keep Californian’s in their homes — would be fewer occurrences of the West Nile virus… Hopefully.