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Housing crisis turns some suburban neighborhoods into ghost towns

March 30, 2010 |  3:01 pm

Hemet

There are hundreds of stories about how the housing crisis has affected people who have lost their homes --- but what about the people left behind?  Eddie and Maria Lopez can tell you that the flight of families who have walked away or been foreclosed on has completely changed their small gated community in Hemet.

When they moved in, they were enticed by the ducks walking around the development, the lakes, the pool and clubhouse. Families held parties during the holidays; kids would play together on the street. But homes in the gated community of Willowalk plummeted in value -- the Lopezes' home went from $440,000  to $169,000 -- and families began leaving in droves.

Now, the Lopezes say just about every house on their block is either empty or rented, and the behavior of some of the tenants makes the family feel uncomfortable. The house next door, for instance, is rented out to a handful of men, each of whom live in a separate room.

Some observers say that these suburban communities could become the new slums of America. As baby boomers age, they won't need McMansions and will want to live closer to urban centers. And Generation X and Y already prefer walkable residences, according to Arthur C. Nelson, a University of Utah professor who projects there could be 25 million more of these suburban homes by 2030 than are needed.

For more on Willowalk and how cities across the state are coping with gated ghost towns, check out the story.  

-- Alana Semuels

Photo: Many of the houses in Willowalk are empty. Credit: Zach Winnick via Picasa

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