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Stockton: America's foreclosure capital


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    A sign in a deserted section of downtown Stockton, Calif.

    - Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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    A deserted section of downtown Stockton, Calif.

    - Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

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    A sign saying "Can't refinance your home, renegotiate your loan" is overgrown with weeds in an open lot.

    - Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

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    For sale sign lies in overgrown grass and weeds.

    - Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

KAI RYSSDAL: Stockton's not a bad place. Officials there didn't do anything to make it number one on the foreclosure list. But number one it is. The research firm RealtyTrac said so this morning. Overall the number of foreclosure proceeedings in this country has more than doubled in the past year. In Stockton, that's one of every 25 homes.

Bob Bressani's the interim housing director for the city. Mr. Bressani, good to have you with us.

BOB BRESSANI: Thank you.

RYSSDAL: What happened to get the Stockton housing market where it is today?

BRESSANI: We were a high-growth area for the last four, five years -- just in terms of housing, availability of land. And also, housing prices being more affordable relative to some of the neighboring areas, such as the Bay Area.

RYSSDAL: People working in San Francisco and making that commute from Stockton, hmm?

BRESSANI: The Bay-Area-to-Central-Valley commute is very heavy. Now, it's been estimated that there are about 70,000 to 80,000 people making the commute from our area to locations over in the Bay Area for that purpose.

RYSSDAL: When did you know something was wrong with the housing in your city?

BRESSANI: I think many people in the housing industry had a sense, just with the type of loan products that were being offered to people. I think the handwriting was on the wall that, as these interest rates would reset, some of the foreclosure problems were just totally unavoidable. So, we had a sense it was coming. And then, I think, the actual defaults back in 2007 is when it really started to hit home.

RYSSDAL: You knew it was coming because you study this everyday. This is your job. What does it do, though, to the people of Stockton when they wake up in the mornings and they see the foreclosure numbers or they drive down the street and they see the foreclosed homes?

BRESSANI: The impacts are obvious. There are neighborhoods that are highly impacted in terms of vacant homes right now. Certainly that brings down property values in those areas. I think, probably, the overall percentage in terms of foreclosed units to the number of total housing units in Stockton is somewhat relatively low. But it does, obviously, dampen people's perceptions. You know, nobody likes to be classified as a high foreclosure area. And Stockton, as you're aware, has been -- for various statistical purposes -- been rated, you know, high in the past. But nobody, certainly, likes that stigma.

RYSSDAL: How long have you been working for the city, Mr. Bressani?

BRESSANI: Twenty years.

RYSSDAL: How much longer do you think it's going to take to turn this thing around, then? You've been around for a while.

BRESSANI: With the housing stimulus package, that's certainly going to help if, absent of any federal intervention, I'm not necessarily optimistic over the next couple of years. But, again, with this legislation I am hopeful that it's, you know, certainly not going to solve everything, but I am hopeful that it is going to at least jump-start things. I don't anticipate that, at least here in our area, that we will be anywhere back to the activity and/or housing prices that we've seen anytime soon.

RYSSDAL: Bob Bressani is the interim housing director for the city of Stockton, Calif. Mr. Bressani, thanks a lot for your time.

BRESSANI: Thank you.

RYSSDAL: Hey, do you want the job on a full-time basis, by the way?

BRESSANI: [laughs] Absolutely.

RYSSDAL: Alright, sir. Thanks a lot.

BRESSANI: Thanks.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
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