Until recently, Las Vegas was one of the few places where the American Dream still seemed widely possible. Each month, thousands of people flocked there, lured by the promise of good jobs and a chance to own a home. It was the fastest growing city in the country. But now, Las Vegas has a new distinction: the nation's highest foreclosure rate.
Las Vegas was the fastest growing city in the country for two decades running. While good blue-collar jobs were fast disappearing in many parts of the United States, a new crop of jobs was growing in the Nevada desert. The casino industry was booming, unions were strong, and workers without a college education could make a very good living in the service sector. Thousands of people were moving to Las Vegas every month.
A lot of people facing foreclosure in Las Vegas bought houses they couldn't afford. But others had houses they could afford, until they started taking out equity, banking on the hope that property values would keep going up. It seemed like a good bet at the time. But now these folks are realizing just how high the stakes were. And they too are struggling to hold on to their homes.
During the real-estate boom of the last decade, some of the hottest properties in Las Vegas were inside gated communities. The gates were supposed to lend a sense of prestige to the houses inside, and distance residents from the concerns of the rest of the world. But the mortgage crisis has slipped through the iron bars. There are lots of empty houses now, driving down home values for people still living in these communities, and changing their sense of themselves.
Selling home loans was big business in Las Vegas during the real estate boom. People with little experience were reinventing themselves as mortgage brokers, to get a piece of the action. But now, business has dried up, and many mortgage brokers are finding themselves on both sides of the foreclosure crisis.
If nothing else, at least neighbors are finally getting to know each other.
Producer Krissy Clark's search for her American Dream.
Support for Foreclosure City comes from the Northwest Area Fund of the Minneapolis Foundation.