The recession that’s supposedly over continues to have a human cost. Here’s the story of Laurel Holliday - a homeowner in the San Fernando Valley who won’t be a homeowner much longer.?
Laurel Holliday is a Valley native. She met her future husband Peter in the mid-'90s, married in 1999, had their first child not long after.
Their first house was nice, but "We didn’t have a lot of money," says Holliday. "So we had this little two-bed, one-bath house, me and husband and our son. And then we made a list of everything our dream house would have – both a family room and a living room, and a guesthouse. I wanted a chicken coop. we even put a tire swing. My husband wanted a pool, I wanted a garden..."??Within a few months they found it. A four-bedroom fixer-upper in a quiet part of Granada Hills with almost all of the things on the list, down to the tire swing.
When they moved in, they installed a plaque next to the front door with two doves facing one another, and underneath that it reads “House of The Hollidays, established May 22, 1999.”? ?The sign’s still there, but a lot’s changed in 10 years. It’s no longer the house of the Hollidays, for starters. It now belongs to Aurora Loan Services, which originally loaned them the money.
Any minute, the L.A. County Sheriff could knock on Laurel’s door with an eviction notice. "[My husband] has his own plumbing company, and, you know, in 2007 he had four vans and made lots of money and was doing really great. And then after the recession hit he lost like 75 percent of his business.
"So from April 2009 he stopped paying the mortgage. And at the time I wasn’t employed, I didn’t have any income of my own and there was nothing I could do about it. So I ended up taking a job as a server at a French restaurant that I worked at 17 years ago."??Laurel and Peter split up in late 2008. She started a business from home, brought in some roommates and began saving money. But by August of that year, things looked grim.? ?"I contacted my realtor about doing a short sale, because I don’t have $20,000 to catch up on the back payments that were missed. And then the climate with the mortgage companies kind of started to change with the Obama Making Home Affordable program and they were able to get me a loan modification by late October.
"And the bank was saying, 'Yeah, yeah, this sounds good.' And lo and behold, the modification was approved! So I was like 'Yay!' And they dropped my payment down from $4,000 a month to $2,600 a month."??But then she got a letter: "It was a Thursday afternoon. I got a letter in the mail from Aurora. Said that, unfortunately we are unable to give you your loan modification, reason being, and the reason was 'borrower cannot afford payments.' Which was ludicrous. I had been paying it for five months!"??The bank then foreclosed, bought back the house, and told her to leave. Fearing the sheriff could come any time, Laurel and her kids spent the summer sleeping on air mattresses.
Her lawyer started avoiding her calls and missing court dates, eventually disappearing completely. And now she can’t afford another.
Nobody will take her case pro bono. So she’s waiting. And taking care of her chickens. "And they’re really great weeders! I got Chicago, Louise, Henrietta, Noodle and Clover. I kind of just decided I can only do as much as I can do.
"So this whole crisis has really been quite good for my spirituality," says Holliday, laughing. "Yeah, if it’s meant to be that l stay here, I’ll stay here. And I’ll just have to do as much as I can."