Emptied nests

Failed mortgages are almost always more common in lower-income areas, but in the current housing crisis, all of the Bay State’s foreclosure hotspots are in communities with relatively low home values (see “Broken Homes”). During the last housing crash, in 1992 and 1993, there were predictably high foreclosure rates in cities like Brockton and Lowell, but data from the Federal Reserve Bank also showed high rates in desirable locations such Acton, Boxborough, and Provincetown. This time, as the map below indicates, foreclosures are pretty much an urban phenomenon, and a city with one of the highest rates (Lynn) is right next to a town with one of the lowest rates (Lynnfield, with an extra syllable that makes a lot of difference).

Meet the Author

The Warren Group counted 22,269 foreclosures in Massachusetts from January 2006 through November 2008, which comes out to a statewide rate of 116 foreclosures for every 10,000 residential properties. Eighty cities and towns have rates above that, and all of them have average housing values below that of the state as a whole (which the Department of Revenue calculated at $404,000 for fiscal year 2008). Mashpee had the highest foreclosure rate (108 per 10,000) among communities with above-average housing values. Communities with both below-average home values and below-average foreclosure rates were almost all in the more affordable western half of the state, but the Boston suburbs of Norwood and Maynard also fell into this category.

Boston as a whole has a foreclosure rate of 179 per 10,000, but there are wide differences among neighborhoods. Dorchester has been the hardest hit, with 945 foreclosures over the 35-month period shown on the map, and if it were a separate city its rate would be about 700 per 10,000, enough to beat out Lawrence for the worst rate in Massachusetts. At the same time, there were only 34 foreclosures in West Roxbury, for a rate of only about 43 per 10,000 — putting it in the same neighborhood as the posh suburbs of Sherborn and Wayland.