Sunday, August 30, 2009


The New York Times's "Beth Court Loss and Opportunity, Side by Side" is a series of articles that explore how a block of eight homes in Moreno Valley, Calif., about 60 miles from Los Angeles, has been reshaped by the housing bust and recession. It's a really great series, and it highlights some personal stories that are as heartbreaking as you might expect.

But then it also highlights something that much of the coverage on the mortgage crisis overlooks, namely, that one person's loss is another person's gain. When home values plummeted, homeowners became desperate to sell, and suddenly the dream of the single-family house on a quiet, suburban cul-de-sac became a reality for people for whom it previously wasn't. The series points out that on Beth Court--the block examined in the series--most of the new home buyers were atypical. And while the series dwells a bit too much on how the new neighbors don't fit in (they moved in with their extended family, they don't speak English, they don't participate in the neighborhood association, etc.), the fact is that they introduced much-needed diversity into the community.

And this is why "Mortgage Crisis," for all of its negative implications, deserves a spot on the Arsenal of Inclusion. This "glitch" has introduced new classes, races,and lifestyles into areas that looked as if they would remain stable, homogeneous, and exclusionary. It's not just Beth Court in Moreno Valley, Calif: today, one can find many new, suburban subdivisions in which multiple families share one large house, where shift workers go in on rentals together, and where transient construction workers get put up in luxury homes.

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