Homeowners in Deschutes County are defaulting on their mortgages at the rate of 10 a day, according to a report by OPB's Ethan Lindsey this morning.
Lindsey takes a close-up look at a neighborhood near Mountain View High School in northeast Bend where new developments sprouted during the bubble years but now "the for-sale signs swing in the wind" on many homes.
"What I'm noticing now is a lot of for-sale signs with auction dates, or bank owned homes," says resident Patsy Dryden. "Far more of them, as I'm jogging down the neighborhood."
"Many of these neighborhoods stand on what was abandoned farm land in the 1990s," Lindsey writes. "And, as the wind blows through unmowed lawns on the outskirts of the neighborhood now, it's hard not to imagine it abandoned once again. A disproportionate number of foreclosures are coming from this part of town. The Mountain View High main office says the school's enrollment is down this year. Officials say they can't know if that's due to families forced to move away - or some other reason."
Meanwhile, in other cheery news, the official seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Deschutes County hit 12% in January - up half a percentage point from the December number, the highest rate since 1990, and far worse than the national jobless rate of 7.6%.
KTVZ did some interesting comparisons between our jobless rate and those in other small Western towns and found that Yakima, WA (11.1%) and Chico, CA (10.6%) were faring almost as badly as Bend, while Boulder, CO and Idaho Falls, ID were doing much better at 4.8% and 4.7%, respectively. It's hard to account for the wide disparity, although Idaho Falls and Boulder appear to have more diversified economies than Bend and Yakima.
KTVZ's Nina Melhof dutifully quotes one local who's convinced Bend will bounce back because of - what else? - its wonderful "lifestyle": "I think we're a great destination for skiing, and livability, great people," says Nick Norton. "I think this will end - it's got to end somewhere."
According to some analysts, one reason Bend's unemployment rate is so high is that people keep moving here for the "lifestyle" even though they don't have jobs. They end up swelling the jobless rolls and putting more strain on local social services.
Maybe it's time to give the "Bend is Paradise!" meme a rest until the economy starts to get back on its feet.