How Will Foreclosures, Other Housing Problems Play Out in Midterms?

BY Dante Chinni  September 20, 2010 at 1:50 PM EST

After 2 1/2 years of economic trouble, it is hard to cite one singular reason voters are disgruntled going into fall. But one of the biggest culprits in the troubles is undoubtedly the housing market.

So at Patchwork Nation, we decided it was time to look a little more closely at how the housing crunch was affecting runs for Congress in a more immediate way. With the help of data from RealtyTrac, we mapped where the housing foreclosure is most acute at the congressional district level. And while story may be national, the impacts are clearly more extremely localized.

Simply put, some House candidates are likely finding their campaigns dominated by the foreclosure story, others may hear only distant echoes of trouble.

A map of foreclosures by district per 1,000 households from January to July can be found here. You can look at how your district and others have fared.

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10 Districts That Have Been Rocked

The 10 districts hit hardest by foreclosures this year are evenly split between Republicans and Democrats and they are based in three states – California, Nevada and Florida. That obviously comports with what many have heard about the foreclosure mess. Those states have taken an extra-large hit in the housing crunch.

DistrictHouse Member (Party)Jan.-July Foreclosures*
Nev. – 1Shelley Berkley (D)88.19
Nev. – 3Dina Titus (D)85.10
Calif. – 25Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R)73.10
Calif. – 43Joe Baca (D)71.98
Fla. – 12Mario Diaz-Balart (R)70.78
Calif. – 18Dennis A. Cardoza (D)65.06
Calif. – 44Ken Calvert (R)59.97
Calif. – 45Mary Bono Mack (R)59.09
Calif. – 7George Miller (D)58.58
Calif. – 49Darrell E. Issa (R)58.15
  • per 1,000 Households

When you look closer, however, what may be more interesting is how little an impact those foreclosures seem to be having on those campaigns. Of those 10 races only one is rated a toss-up by political analyst Charlie Cook – Nevada’s third district, held by Democrat Dina Titus. The rest are “solid” or “likely” holds for their respective parties.

This is always the actual story of midterm elections. For all the talk of tsunamis and realignments, the overwhelming majority of districts are “safe.”

Right now, Cook rates 50 districts as toss-ups and another 37 as “leaning” toward the Democratic or Republican candidates. That means 348 seats are likely to stay with their current party.

But it would be wrong to look at those numbers and assume foreclosures will not play a serious role in congressional races this fall.

Where Foreclosures Will Matter

The Patchwork Nation breakdown of nine district types offers some insight into the congresspeople who have a foreclosure problem this fall. Three types of district in the Patchwork methodology have taken the brunt of the foreclosure hit this year – New Diversity districts with large Asian-American populations, Booming Growth districts that have seen a lot of new construction and Young Exurb districts that are home to many fringe suburbs.

Those three types of district have all seem more than 21 foreclosures per 1,000 homes this year. But one of those types in particular, the Booming Growth districts, seem ripe for change.

The Booming Growth districts, where foreclosures were above 25 per 1,000 homes, are pretty evenly split between Democrats and Republicans on the whole, though they lean slightly Republican. And if look at, say, Florida, Cook rates three districts there are toss-ups. All of them are Booming Growth Districts and two of them have seen very high foreclosures numbers this year.

Booming Growth districts are also to a large extent “new places” — places where people have moved in and a geographic political identity has not yet solidified — and hence more likely to swing. In Cook’s ratings, 11 of the “toss-up” districts come form the Booming Growth category and they are all from districts represented by Democrats. Those 11 toss-up districts represent more than 20 percent of all Booming Growth districts.

Just One Part of the Picture

Voters do not vote on foreclosures alone, of course. Unemployment or concerns over government spending may bring voters to the polls. But in places where foreclosures are high, the anger with the status quo is deeper — and it is aimed at Democrats.

We’ll explore that anger further when we look at tea party activity by district and district type later this week.

We will also be updating these numbers throughout the next few months and let you compare those data with other information such as income and immigrant population.