By Brian Tracey Associate editor
msnbc.com
updated 5/13/2008 7:49:59 PM ET 2008-05-13T23:49:59
COMMENTARY

Msnbc.com's Gut Check America series looks at the issues that keep you up at night. This month, we want to hear from you about the impact of the housing market's meltdown.  Read Brian Tracey's essay, then get involved by telling us how mounting home foreclosures are affecting your community.

It was almost like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Beginning in late 2005, people who had purchased homes at the peak of the housing bubble started getting hit with a double whammy: Declining real estate values and rising monthly payments on adjustable-rate mortgages.

U.S. home foreclosure filings have been rising ever since. In the first quarter of this year, foreclosures jumped 23 percent over the prior quarter and were more than double year-earlier as more overextended borrowers failed to make timely payments. Many of them were defaulting on "subprime" loans issued to borrowers with poor credit histories.

The House of Representatives recently passed a bill promising relief — including $15 billion in loans and grants to states for buying and fixing up foreclosed property to help prevent neighborhood blight and stabilize the housing market.

But President Bush has vowed to veto the bill if it reaches his desk, saying the measure rewards lenders and irresponsible borrowers at the expense of homeowners and renters who made more prudent choices.

As the debate heats up in Washington, how are rising home foreclosures affecting your community? Are you seeing more empty homes and other buildings? Is your town or city suffering problems due to a shrinking tax base? What about the general quality of life?

We'll publish a selection of letters we receive. If you provide contact information, a reporter might contact you to follow up.

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