The Minneapolis-Saint Paul Craig’s List is a colder and more
lonely place these days as foreclosures reach a feverish pace in otherwise
sleepy places like Anoka County.
Cul-de-sacs once buzzing with activity and excitement now lie fallow. Residents
no longer stumble, drunk in hedonistic delight, from house to house, relieving boredom and ennui with the
aid of wives, friends and longtime acquaintances in true bacchanalian tradition.
No longer will promotions be celebrated with swing parties of legendary
proportions, catered by P.F.
Chang’s and lubricated with the unholy trinity of Franzia boxed merlot,
Leinie’s Honey Weiss, and industrial-sized tubs of AstroGlide on these subdued
side streets. Reality has come crashing down in Maple Grove and points north,
south, east and west, not in unwanted pregnancy or odd burning and itching
sensations, but in the fuzzy math of adjustable rate mortgages and the American
dream stretched too thin.
Traditionally bastions of stability, fiscal solvency, and late-night
Cinemax-style extra-marital hijinks, nearly 57 percent of foreclosures are
now taking place in the suburbs. Anoka County alone accounted for 190
foreclosures in January. So where will these stricken swingers live? Will they
venture bravely forth into the city they fled, seeking low rents and a more
diverse group to foist pasty white love handles and a bottle of Reunite on?
If they do, they stand to be disappointed. The foreclosure
crisis has left a legacy of awesome ice flows
in suburban townhomes and ramblers, but in some neighborhoods of Minneapolis,
the housing boom lured investors to take on project homes, renting them out
until they could sell them at a profit. Of course, many of those same investors
had all the home improvement and property management skills of an inbred ground sloth,
and were twice as likely to spend their time quaffing low-end lambrusco in Maple Grove
trying to get better acquainted with the ladies of Target’s merchandising
division as they were to maintain their properties. And after the bank foreclosed? Lenders have a habit of studiously ignoring properties, making them breeding
grounds for squatters, thieves and R.T.
Rybak, among other undesirables. As a result, the Greater Metropolitan
Housing Corporation estimates as much as a third of north Minneapolis’
foreclosed housing stock should be razed. And while I loves me some wanton
destruction, that won’t leave much room for the looming wave of homeless Anoka
Of course, there’s a simple solution at hand. The Minneapolis city
council is now backing extended NRP funding,
with two options currently on the table. Should either proposal pass, these
funds could be used to create new zones on the North Side, loosely based on
Gov. Pawlenty’s now defunct JOBZ program.
These areas would be called Beneficial Lateral Orientation Job Opportunity
Building Zones (BLO JOBZ). These zones would be used to cheaply resettle the
suburban refugees looking for homes with a minimum of disruption to the region.
BLO JOBZ would assist in the gentrification of
the North Side, as well as provide a soft landing for these happily humping bon vivants, who would likely be willing to work to improve the housing stock in
the neighborhoods. Plus, if all goes well, as the newly displaced suburban
population settles in the designated zones and gets friendly with their
neighbors, a new era of racial and ethnic understanding could be reached through BLO JOBZ.
Truly, a visionary program.