People In My Neighborhood

A blog about some residents of Nashua, New Hampshire

Livia Gershon

Livia Gershon
Location
Nashua, New Hampshire, USA
Birthday
June 21
Bio
To get updates from this blog on Facebook, please like this page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/People-In-My-Neighborhood/160455710700580. Or on Twitter follow @LiviaGershon. This is a blog about some of my neighbors. Like a lot of people who spend considerable time reading newspapers and websites, I sometimes feel I’m more familiar with the lifestyles of the kinds of people who show up in the lifestyle sections of the paper than with the lives of people who are way closer to my income level. This is an attempt to find out more about the working- and middle-class people around me. I live in Nashua, New Hampshire, which isn’t a poor city. The average job in the metropolitan area pays about $28 an hour, according to the state agency that collects that kind of information. Unemployment in the area is under 5 percent. But I’m continually astonished by how hard things are for many people I see every day. I chose people to interview for this blog pretty much at random. I didn’t pick them out because I thought their stories would illustrate a particular political or economic idea. They’re just people I saw around who were generous enough to talk with me.

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MARCH 21, 2012 8:57AM

The Post-Foreclosure Plan

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Palm Square  (Palm Square)

Andy was taking a walk not far from my house when I met him, wearing a Yankees Go Home t-shirt and smoking a cigarette. He’s a stocky, muscular guy with dark, wavy hair. He said he’d rather I didn’t take his picture, partly because he thinks he needs a haircut.

Andy—he asked me to use just his first name—lives at Palm Square, an apartment building down the street from me that’s also home to Pat and Blackie. As we walked by a new park that the city is building, Andy said he thinks the neighborhood is improving, between the city’s focus on projects here, a larger police presence and a good neighborhood watch group.  Even though he hasn’t lived here long, he said he knows the area because he’s got friends nearby, and years ago he lived fairly close.

“I’ve seen it at its worst,” he said.

Still, even if things are improving, Andy wouldn’t have moved here if he hadn’t lost his house to foreclosure.

He lived in the house, in a “real nice neighborhood” in a different part of Nashua, for three years. His then-girlfriend lived with him and, for part of the time, her daughter stayed there too. He bought the house at the height of the boom market.

“They were giving houses to everybody,” he said. “I blame, of course, myself. But I went through a mortgage broker.”

Andy said he should have listened to his credit union. He went there first for a mortgage and they didn’t think he could afford the house. But the broker thought he could, and helped find a way to make it happen, with the help of Fannie Mae.

Paying the mortgage was tough to begin with, Andy said, and the rising cost of utilities and taxes added to the pain. Then, the factory where he works went through a rough patch and cut back his hours. Meanwhile, home prices were plummeting. It wasn’t long until he realized he wouldn’t be able to keep the house.

“I almost had a nervous breakdown when it happened,” he said.

Andy worried at first about finding a place to live, period, since the foreclosure had left him with bad credit. But the owner of the apartment building saw that he had a strong work history and didn’t worry about the credit.

The owner, Andy added, is a couple years younger than he is and has already made millions. Andy seems kind of surprised that his own financial situation has turned out the way it has. A few minutes later, when I tell him that my husband and I bought a house down the street that had been foreclosed, he says his nephew did the same thing and got a good deal.

“My nephew’s doing better than I am,” he said with a slightly rueful smile.

Andy works in electronics. He’s a UV specialist, which he tells me basically means making specialized glass tubes. His job used to entail blowing the glass, something that he says is still done “by mouth.”

“It’s a technique to it,” he said. “Took me a while to learn.”

He now does assembly work, and his hours are back to normal—the company’s business is actually booming, and he can get as much overtime as he wants. He’s taking a lot, because the company is also planning a “reconsolidation” next year, meaning it’s closing the plant in Nashua and moving its functions to California.

He hasn’t been offered a job at the new location, even if he wanted to move across the country. The company has invited a handful of engineers and managers to make the move.

“There’s only a choice few,” Andy said.

He’s already started looking for another job. It’s not an easy process, because he let his ex keep their laptop when they broke up. To look at online job boards, he has to go to the library or to his brother’s house.

Besides job searching, he’s thinking about a new living situation. When he leaves his job, he’d like to cash out his 401k and buy a mobile home at a trailer park.

“I figure if I pay for the mobile home I’ll own it, so I won’t have any mortgage,” he said. And the rent for the lot, utilities and taxes won’t be a huge expense.

As our conversation wound down, Andy told me he liked having the chance to talk about his life. It’s something he’s been doing a lot more lately than he once did.

“Before I kept it bottled in,” he said. “Now that I talk more, it helps.”

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I don't say this very often, but What Baltimore Said.
Thanks, guys. I agree--people have to understand their own mistakes, but that doesn't mean they weren't treated badly by the guys who run the financial system. And it's not like those guys are worrying about whether to raid their 401k accounts or how to find a computer for their job search right now.