Sunday, February 15, 2009

Portrait: Phoenix, Arizona

Everyone here knows someone that foreclosed on a home. It seems as though there are a disproportionate number of houses for sale or foreclosed on here in Phoenix, and it's not simply my imagination… there are. FOR SALE Signs decorate the neighborhoods. We are right up there with Las Vegas for foreclosures. This valley grew and grew, much too quickly. Our valley spans over 1000 square miles; the cities run together, and often you aren't aware that you have left one city and entered another. Eternal suburbia. The growth has all but halted. The new homes are being put up at a crawl instead of the lightning speed they once were. Everyone here came from somewhere else. Well, everyone but me it seems. There are very few natives, so everyone here has a story, a reason for moving here. The story often includes the price of living, or the lack of snow. That's right, the price of living here is extremely low, or it used to be. No PhD, Master's degree, or family money required to live lavishly here. Before the housing "boom" almost anyone could afford to live here, which is good or bad depending on how you look at it.

At 22, my ex and I bought a condo… for $93,500. He had a regular job under $40K a year and I was a college student. That was almost 5 years ago. When we split he kept the house, and in order to keep it, he now has 2 jobs. Like Rebecca I have not personally felt this recession. I have seen people around me in pain from lost jobs, homes, cars… Friends move home with parents after losing jobs after being on their own for years. When I met my husband, I didn't realize that he was in a stable position come recession time. I knew he was not a broke twenty something, but I didn't know that our field of work was a safe one… We are not rich, but we are stable. I am no longer charging groceries, or living paycheck to paycheck. But many here are. The young couples that married right out of high school and started having children are both working, or moving in with parents. They are no longer able to get by, certainly not on one paycheck. Living paycheck to paycheck, it really only takes one or two rough months to hit bottom now.

There are more empty store fronts than I can remember in my short 26 years. Many people that got into real estate here to make money quick, now have to work second jobs. If you bought a home here in the last several years, you are probably upside down in it, and cannot get out of it, so if you lose your job, you can't move… you are stuck. And you aren't alone. Like I said, everyone here knows someone…

Phoenix, Arizona