The Worst Neighbor? A Bank

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photo credit: Tess Vigeland (via Marketplace.org)

I just heard a really poignant Marketplace report on the impact of vacancy on neighborhoods.  With the rash of foreclosures following the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, many properties came into the sole possession of banks, including Bank of America and JPMorgan.  Putting aside the damage done by the foreclosure process itself, what is perhaps more destructive is the vacancy that follows.

The biggest issue?  Banks don’t take care of these properties.  And it’s easy for disrepair to become blight, especially in a neighborhood plagued by systemic vacancy.

Here’s a taste:

We parked in front of a boarded up, split-level house, fronted by a wire fence w ith a big hole cut out of it. The lawn was dried up and brown.

This property on Kalmia Street is in foreclosure. 2,300-square feet, list value $115,000 on the real estate website Redfin.

[LAPD Officer]: As of this morning, these homes are owned by JPMorgan.

[Marketplace]: How long have they been unoccupied?

[LAPD Officer]Three years at least.

[Marketplace]Three years.

When a JPMorgan spokesperson was asked about the property, their response was unsurprising:

 And unfortunately at this particular property, individuals in the community have been dumping.

Understandably this is a frustrating situation for JPMorgan.  They aren’t landlords.  They are a bank.  Maintaining properties is not what they are designed to do.  Nonetheless, it’s troubling.

What if that family had not been evicted?  Even paying a fraction of their mortgage, would that not be better than the blight that replaced them under the supervision of JPMorgan?

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