As if Dante Harvey’s neighbourhood in Las Vegas were doomed, lately almost all of his next door friends have left, leaving him only to count the number of people who no longer live there: “My old friend Ricky used to live over here. And then Jannie used to live over there with her parents, they had been here for about six years. I also had friends that lived down there in the houses on the street corner. Really, over the last couple of years we’re the only people left.”
Close to twenty houses have been seized on this one block of Las Vegas. Dante, his sisters and their grandmother Rita are facing a similar fate - they’re currently fighting foreclosure. Their adjustable mortgage jumped last year from 1800 to 2700 dollars per month, causing 64 year-old Rita several breakdowns as she almost cries out: “I’m tired of it, just tired of it!”
An eviction notice taped to the door
With Dante and his two sisters to take care of but only welfare checks to do so, Rita can no longer afford to make payments on the house. The loan company has notified the Harveys that they needed to leave the house, but Rita did not give up: “We would go to the store and find a three day eviction notice taped to our garage door when we came back. There would also be notices from scandalous realtors. I would call them and they would say, "Well, if you move on out, the lender will give you $1500!" I tore the notice up and told them not to call my house again! And we just stood our ground because I was told that if you leave, then you’ve abandoned the house and there’s no recourse to get it back, but if you’re still in it then you have a chance.”
Nevada, sorry national leader in foreclosures
Letting go of the house of her dreams was not an option for Rita who called Nevada Fair Housing for help. The company helps desperate home owners deal with loan agents. And these are busy times for the Las Vegas office, with 400 cases currently being dealt with. In between phone calls to save a house at the very last minute the director, Gail Burks, explains her method: “The laws state that banks are supposed to prevent foreclosure and we show them how to get what we call ‘maximize net profit’. If there are already are ten homes in the community that have been foreclosed on, what do you get? You’re not going to be able to resell it and the value is going to go down. It’s better to work with someone who is willing to pay, who can pay and to structure something where they can do so appropriately.”
Vegas is having a rough landing after years of being the fastest-growing city in the US. Instead of leaving, Rita and her family are trying hard not to contribute to the numbers which have made Nevada the national leader in terms of foreclosures.