It is clear that the housing recovery is in full swing. Home values in the state have surpassed where they were during the last peak, in 2005. But there are huge winners and losers. Jennifer McKim covered housing for the Boston Globe during the recession and watched firsthand how the housing bubble and foreclosure crisis affected Massachusetts residents. And now she's with our WGBH partner, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting. McKim spoke with WGBH All Things Considered anchor Barbara Howard about her research 10 years after the country’s housing crisis. The following transcript has been edited for clarity.
Barbara Howard: Community winners and losers. What do you mean?
Jenifer McKim: Housing values have surpassed what they were in 2005, but that really depends where you live. So in Brookline and Cambridge, they are way up, but some of the towns that are farther out like Ashburnham and Fitchburg still haven't reached the peaks of 2005.
Howard: The recession hit ten years ago, and there were so many foreclosures. How are people doing who had homes foreclosed on?
McKim: So that's was the question I was trying to answer. And the first thing I did was speak with people from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and ask them what they know. I spoke with an economist who said his assumption was that they have moved on. But then when he started to crunch the numbers, he was really surprised at the data that he had found for us, which is that in 2008, in the first quarter, of all the folks across the nation who lost their homes to foreclosure, only one-fifth of them at this point have new loans. That means that the vast majority of people who lost their properties are renters, or no longer able to be homeowners.
Howard: I know you talked to a former homeowner who was foreclosed on. Tell us her story.
McKim: So Frances Louis was a mother of three living in Boston when she decided in 2009, with the help of activists from City Life (Vida Urbana), to occupy a bank-owned vacant property in Roxbury.
Basically they showed up, put banners on the building that said “Occupy,” and said this is a property that she deserves to live in. Her argument was that the lenders were complicit in the foreclosure crisis and therefore should let her live there. Surprisingly, they did. And the property was purchased by a non-profit, who then sold it to another company and let her stay as a renter. She remained there for years, but has paid different rent increases since then. She's now facing a new rent increase that she says she cannot pay. And she's facing eviction.
SOUND OF FRANCES LOUIS:
It’s very difficult even to find affordable housing. One bedrooms going for $1,700, $1,800. One bedroom. And that’s crazy.
McKim: And she says she's not alone.
SOUND OF FRANCES LOUIS:
People in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan — Jamaica Plain’s getting hit now. East Boston … you name it, every town’s getting hit with something.
Howard: What does her story tell you about what's happening in the Boston area right now?
McKim: Well I was referred to her by people from City Life / Vida Urban, who said back in the day, 10 years ago, they were hearing from homeowners who were trying to save their homes. Now 90 percent of the people who come into their offices seeking help are fighting eviction because prices are going up so high. Investors are buying properties and trying to increase rents and force people out.
Howard: So these are not so much homeowners, but renters?
McKim: Exactly, so all these people who used to own homes are now struggling to pay these rents. When I spoke to Francis Louis and I asked her how she felt about the housing recovery, she looked at me and said "what recovery?" For her, it's not a recovery at all.
Howard: Thanks for coming in, Jenifer.
McKim: Thank you very much.
Howard: That's Jenifer McKim with our WGBH partner the New England Center for Investigative Reporting. She's written about this in today's Boston Globe. This is WGBH’s All Things Considered.