This is the foreclosed home in our tiny, otherwise picturesque village of Guildhall, Vermont. These days, I regularly find myself wondering if maybe it’s a suitable location for our own Occupy Guildhall encampment.
After all, the house has been sitting empty and forlorn for over two years, grossly neglected by whatever distant lending companies now own it, a blight on our neighborhood. It’s become our own local symbol of the destructive, pointless power that a small minority holds over regular people and how that power can destroy or at least seriously undermine livelihoods, relationships, dreams and entire neighborhoods.
The house, a historic structure, sits one lot away from our house, nestled comfortably between the banks of the beautiful Connecticut River on one side and on the other, the Public Library and Masonic Hall.
From my kitchen window, where I’m washing dishes or baking bread, or just taking a break from writing some legal document, I can see the back of the foreclosed property, including an old swing that hangs somewhat mournfully from a maple tree and the large pen where the former owners’ dogs used to run and play. On another side of the house, I can see the blueberry bushes that the former owners once lovingly planted.
Like all foreclosures, this one has a story behind it. I need not mention names, but the people against whom the bank foreclosed had come to be our friends. They bought the house in 2006 and had their wedding right there in the back yard. Less than 3 years later, they were divorced. Divorce in America typically tends to be a financial disaster for one or both spouses. In this case, neither spouse could swing the mortgage payments on their own. The wife moved to neighboring Lunenburg, where she rents with a friend and struggles to complete her nursing degree while working full time.
The husband, just before the divorce happened, was laid off from his job. He happily found someone new to love and fortunately, that new partner had some means. Together, they moved far away indeed: to a Central American country. At least he’s out of the reach of the creditors.
Meanwhile, the house sits empty, unkempt and steadily deteriorating. Last summer, we noticed that someone came by once a month or so to mow the lawn. No one has cleaned up the mess inside or bothered with any exterior upkeep or maintenance. As far as I can tell, whatever lending company owns the damn thing now doesn’t give a fig about trying to market or sell it. The house appears on no listings that I can find, and there’s no sign posted out front.
It would be nice to have the house occupied, but during the foreclosure process, the finance company specifically refused the wife’s repeated requests to re-negotiate the terms of the mortgage payments.
The result? The lending company gets nothing and in fact takes a loss, because they keep having to pay the taxes and water bills. The wife, who was well-liked and actively engaged in town government was forced from her home and her town. I and the other village residents have lost our neighbor and every day must look at the failing house–and alternately feel sad or wonder how it all affects our own property values. I somehow doubt that this beautiful historic home will ever be sold or even inhabited again.
You couldn’t ask for a better illustration of the utterly pointless carnage wreaked on our society by the greedy corporations and lenders. Indeed, maybe it’s time to Occupy Guildhall, right next door.