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The Housing Mess Drags on … and on

Renzo Salazar places a sign in front of a foreclosed home on Oct. 13 in Miami, Florida; Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Renzo Salazar places a sign in front of a foreclosed home on Oct. 13 in Miami, Florida; Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

It is all but impossible to pinpoint one key problem in the U.S. economy — manufacturing declines, global competition and international economic tensions could all be cited. But the intractable housing mess clearly sits somewhere near the center of the larger problems.

The September foreclosure numbers from the firm RealtyTrac show a housing problem that is stalled at best and far from recovery — slightly better than August’s overall numbers, but worse than July’s. The numbers remain especially high in Patchwork Nation’s Boom Town counties and in Latino-heavy Immigration Nation, but also above the national county average in the wealthy Monied Burbs.

Those persistently high foreclosure numbers are keeping home prices low, and the low home prices are making owners less likely to sell. That helps create the latest problem in the system: a low inventory of homes on the market for those who actually want to buy.

It is a difficult set of problems to fix and it is prompting the federal government to consider a new plan that would help people who are “underwater” in their homes (they owe more than their house is worth).

Looking at our Patchwork Nation communities, something like that kind of plan might help nudge the housing market forward. A lot of people are in a situation where they can’t move without taking a massive hit financially. But whatever happens, a turnaround looks a long ways off.

A Slow, Painful Illness