Kids and Foreclosure: A Disaster Waiting to Happen

The foreclosure debacle is a crisis for communities and neighborhoods. It's a financial disaster for property owners (both those threatened with foreclosure and those ...
March 13, 2009
 

The foreclosure debacle is a crisis for communities and neighborhoods. It's a financial disaster for property owners (both those threatened with foreclosure and those who live next door to a foreclosed house) and a horrific drain on the local tax base.

But even worse, it has grave consequences for children.

In part, that's because foreclosure often leads to homelessness, which has dire implications for children's health and mental well-being. Even if the foreclosure means moving to another form of housing in another neighborhood, the process uproots children and is likely to have a long-term effect on their education, health and sense of stability.

At a Thursday's Child conference at the Urban Institute, housing advocates, mortgage specialists and urban planners from the non-profit sector looked at the foreclosure issue from the perspective of how it effects children.

Their conclusion: There's not much solid research out there but, according to Ingrid Gould Ellen, a co-director of New York University's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, "What does exist shows mobility is detrimental to a child's education and development, especially when the move happens at odd points during the year -- which is what happens with a foreclosure."

One health impact is also clear: When children live in over-crowded quarters, disease thrives. Malcolm Bush, a research fellow at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, noted that when housing occupancy runs higher than 1.5 people per room, there's an increase in certain diseases. With foreclosure forcing many families to double up, the numbers per room are climbing as high as 6 to 7 in some neighborhoods.

The point of the conference was clear: The effect of foreclosure on children is an emerging issue that federal, state and local policy makers need to address before it becomes a full blown crisis.

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