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An Ethnographic View of Impact: Asset Stripping for People of Color

An Ethnographic View of Impact: Asset Stripping for People of Color
2010Opportunity Communities

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I finished the interview with Edna, and then used her bathroom, taking the opportunity to poke my head around the rest of the house. It was small. The bathroom led off the TV room and had a door through to the kitchen on the other side. In the dining room, the dining table was laid out with a full dinner set, and table cloth. There was a sofa and armchair in the living room area. It felt middle class, but not excessive. Enough to say respectable, but certainly not extravagant. There were few knick-knacks or clutter in the house in general. In the bathroom, there was the minimum of “stuff” – just hand soap and a small vase. The towels matched, but were frayed, indicating their use and age. She came into the kitchen and opened up the blinds “to let fresh air into the house.” She explained how her neighbor would help her out, and she’d help out the neighbor. Take each other’s trash out.

Edna was a grandmother. She’d been married, but was now separated and had bought a small home in a community in the southern part of Boston to look for a quieter, safer place to live. Two guys at a local mortgage company offered to help her buy the home but inflated her income on the loan application. She couldn’t afford the mortgage payments. So she started using her 401K (retirement plan) to manage the mortgage payments and cover the deficit. She didn’t feel like she had a choice.

An older woman, her health had started taking its toll and she was struggling to stay at work, meanwhile rapidly building up medical debts. She was in foreclosure now, about to lose her home and any assets that she’d accumulated, poured into the mortgage to save the house. She was a single elderly African-American woman.