Saturday, May 30, 2009

Foreclosure Valley to hold citywide open house

From the Oregonian:

City leaders, business owners and residents here have all heard the chortling about how high foreclosure rates and half-finished subdivisions make their community east of Interstate 205 far closer to Death Valley than Happy Valley.

Now, by staging what's billed as the nation's first citywide open house, Happy Valley is setting out to turn that frown upside-down.

A daylong event Saturday will open the doors of 150 houses in this city of 11,600 residents to everyone from prospective buyers to the merely curious.

But home tours are just the start. Anyone wondering about living in Happy Valley will be able to chat with school employees, talk shop with police and fire officials and get a first-hand look at a city park so new it hasn't even been named.

"We want to show that a community is much more than just a collection of houses," Steve Campbell, Happy Valley's community services director, said. "And that this city, in particular, really believes in itself."

No one denies, however, that Happy Valley's housing crash has been as bad or worse than just about anyplace else in the state.

Until last year, surging growth and a home-building boom made this the fastest-growing city in Oregon. At the peak of the boom, the city issued 500 to 600 building permits annually.

That has ground to a near-halt.

Nearly 200 Happy Valley houses are now in various stages of foreclosure, Campbell said. Another 100 houses are back in the hands of the banks that financed them. And from 80 to 100 vacant lots, which will be available for viewing Saturday, are for sale.

"The bigger you are, the harder you fall," he said. "When the crash happened, we were left holding the bag."

Kathy Daw, Happy Valley's city manager, came to work one morning recently and announced to Campbell and others that something needed to be done. In short order, city staffers were calling area real estate agents, mortgage brokers and bankers, floating the idea of a citywide open house to put a positive spin on an otherwise bleak situation.

They decided to call their free, self-guided event "City of Dreams."

Industry professionals are applauding the effort.

"It's not unlike how states promote themselves to tourists," said Mikalan Moiso, principal broker in Re/Max Equity Group's Lake Oswego office. "It's brilliant marketing."

The only thing the city of Happy Valley knows is real estate. In the past every budget problem could be cured by building and selling a few more homes. No wonder the only 'logical' and 'brilliant' solution they can think of is to build and sell a few more homes.

Probably not going to work as well as they hoped.