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Visual Commentary: Foreclosure City

Foreclosure homes
Illustration by Kristina Collantes
Illustration by Kristina Collantes

Looking back at the Great Recession and its impact

It’s hard to pick just one start date for the Great Recession. The National Bureau of Economic Research hindsights the official beginning as late 2007, though the subprime crisis began unraveling the previous year. But September 2008, 10 years ago, certainly felt like the onset of something horrible. The feds took over Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae; Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy to the tune of $619 billion. Most prominently, there was the stock market crash of September 29, when the Dow clanged down a terrifying 777 points. The balance sheets hit the fan, and the Great Recession was definitely underway. Las Vegas — or “Less Vegas,” as it appeared on the cover of Time — got thoroughly trashed in the ensuing economic slam dance, particularly in terms of real estate. The Review-Journal reported in 2012 that the recession had cost Vegas some $113 billion in lost valuation. (The paper interviewed a couple who’d bought a $212,000 home for just $15,000.) The city quickly established a league-leading foreclosure rate; some folks just walked away from their mortgages; and estimates circa 2010 were that tens of thousands of homes sat vacant, an emptiness the size of a small city. Lives were changed, and others ruined.

A decade on, all that may seem like old news (though some of us have just this year seen their mortgages come up from underwater). But the recession’s residue remains — in the extra vibrato of our shudder when we read about uncertainty in the casino biz or a drop in visitor volume. Sure, we’ll get over it, though it may take another 10 years.

(Editor's note: Scott Dickensheets no longer works for Nevada Public Radio)