Brigid Schulte, Washington Post, March 22, 2008
Looking back, Glenda Ortiz can see she did everything wrong when she bought her house in 2005. In fact, to understand the housing crisis that has swept the country, one need only listen to the tale of the Ortiz family.
She looked at only one house and paid too much for it: $430,000 for a run-down, one-story duplex in Alexandria, triple what the house had sold for the year before, and $5,000 more than the asking price, according to real estate records.
She agreed to a high-interest loan that would cost her more than $3,000 a month, more than 70 percent of the $4,200 that she and her husband brought home monthly.
She signed papers in English that she didn’t understand. One said she was married to a man she didn’t know.
She placed her financial future in the hands of a woman she barely knew who sold cosmetics and jewelry door to door. She sought no one else’s advice.
Her loan application sailed through an originator and was accepted by a mortgage company, both specializing in customers with “less than ideal” credit.
And so, in August 2005, Glenda Ortiz, a cook at a Best Western who lived in a cramped apartment in Arlington County, became a homeowner. By last March, the home was in foreclosure. The loan originator and mortgage company had gone out of business. And Ortiz was headed to court.
“It was all a mistake. One hundred percent,” Ortiz said recently in Spanish. “I had such a burning desire to have my own house. I didn’t think about anything else.”
According to the Center for Responsible Lending, 40 percent of loans to Latinos are subprime, and it projects that one out of five of these loans made in 2005 and 2006 will go into foreclosure.
* * *
Glenda Ortiz, 40, had been struggling for nine years, since the day she fled Hurricane Mitch in Honduras and arrived in the United States to find her “own little piece of soil.” She dreamed that owning a home would bring her scattered family together. She fantasized about being able to bring home the daughter she’d left behind as an infant. “I know her only from photographs,” she said wistfully. “I wanted a future for my family, for my children.”
* * *
The end of Glenda Ortiz’s dream came swiftly. By February 2007, she and her husband couldn’t pay the bills. Their power was about to be shut off because they owed Dominion Virginia Power $1,185. The city of Alexandria sent letters demanding the $7,215.88 they owed in property taxes.
She fell behind on the mortgage.
* * *
Glenda Ortiz is again living in an apartment off Glebe Road in Arlandria. She said she had become so depressed about losing her home that she stopped working for more than a year.
She no longer dreams of owning a home in America.