My family has lived in Mission Hills for the past decade. In that time, we have been directly affected by the boom and bust in the real estate cycle, and adversely affected by people who could charitably be characterized as land speculators. During the long economic downturn that began as far back as 2006, older family members shielded my family was shielded form disaster, but I have been witness to the devastation of many of my neighbors losing their homes.
Before the real estate bubble burst, bankers and lending companies were barraging us to refinance, take out second mortgages, and improve our property’s ostensible “value” with improvement projects. One thing we were told repeatedly during the real estate bubble was, “Lompoc homes cannot go down in value, because Lompoc is a perfect commuter town, close to Santa Barbara.” Indeed, my own family and many of my neighbors have held government or nonprofit jobs which effectively subsidized the lifestyle of the South Coast, a region with a much higher economic income bracket.
When the bubble burst, we were left holding the bag. We would drive through Lompoc proper and see local business after local business shuttering its doors. Long-time Lompoc residents said that what has happened here is worse than the bust that occurred after the Challenger disaster, when plans for a West Coast-based space launch facility were scrapped.
There will be those who will read my letter and may think, “Let the buyer beware.” How were buyers of Mission Hills homes supposed to be aware of the complex web of loans, toxic assets, and hedge funds they were really caught up in? The “invisible hand” that Adam Smith used as a metaphor to develop the concept of capitalism cherished in America really does not apply here, because there were so many hands, a more apt metaphor would be the “invisible octopus.”
What I would like to know now, in the aftermath, is what the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and other elected officials are willing to do to help the working class families of Mission Hills, and other small unincorporated neighborhoods or rural areas of the North County. Will you work with congressional Representatives to ensure that some of the settlement money from big banks such as Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and others, helps to keep local families out of homeless shelters?