Summerlin far from immune to foreclosure crisis

You don't need a doctorate in quantum philosophy to understand how disastrous the housing foreclosure problem is in Las Vegas. All you have to do is drive around any residential neighborhood to see the signs that not only say "for sale " but the more ominous "bank owned" or "in foreclosure."

Of course this is due to the fact that Nevada leads the nation in the percentage of home foreclosures. And, just as sadly for those among us who prefer to believe that Summerlin is immune to such disasters, take note that our community is equally susceptible to the dangers of this crisis. Foreclosure notices dot the Summerlin landscape to the same extent that they do anywhere else in Las Vegas.

It can be deemed a tragedy of the highest proportion for anyone or any family to be forced to leave the very roof over their heads. In some cases they have nowhere to go but the streets. In other cases they might take up residence in a car or a pickup truck, unless they're fortunate enough to have friends or relatives who possess the capacity to provide them with temporary shelter.

For anyone who still has their head in the sand, know this grim truth: The problem is real. It is happening today, and it will continue to happen tomorrow and many more tomorrows in Summerlin, in n orthwest Las Vegas and throughout our valley.

But a dilemma of such magnitude cannot occur without giving rise to additional problems, a domino effect of sorts, especially for those residents in neighborhoods where there is one or more foreclosed home in their midst.

A perfect example of the kind of ugly situation that can emerge within a foreclosed house was discovered recently in a Summerlin neighborhood where half a dozen vagrants had taken up residence. They lived in the home for several months ---- rent-free, of course ---- before the authorities got around to dispossessing them. The house was owned by a bank that paid little if any attention to the property, despite complaints from neighbors who were being subjected to various kinds of rowdiness.

And therein lies the core of a major predicament. In too many situations, banks and other companies that foreclose on properties foolishly neglect the follow-up necessary to maintain the aesthetic and other physical necessities required for proper care of the house.

One of those necessities is a responsibility to maintain the water and timing devices needed to keep shrubs and trees from dying. It's a trivial expense in the overall, yet one that is vital to maintaining home value. Unfortunately, companies that foreclose on properties too often ignore the outside appearance. They'll shut off the water in the interest of cutting expenses, a relative "spit in the bucket" in the general costs.

The bottom line is neglect of an otherwise valuable propert y to the point that it impedes the rest of the neighborhood as well.

The Metropolitan Police Department is one of the oldest and strongest advocates of neighborhood watchdog groups, even offering assistance in establishing such watches to help deter crime. Foreclosed homes are, in essence, a form of abandoned homes. And banks and other companies in whose hands such properties are held too often demonstrate dereliction in their responsibility to preserve the value of their property.

Regrettably, such neglect results in hindering the rest of the neighborhood. But vagrant habitation, rowdiness, graffiti, property damage and, in some cases, even serious criminal use of such homes, which may occur as a result of such dereliction, are by no means the only problems.

Strangely, an unsightly property has a way of inviting trash. Moreover, weeds and tall grass often are able to endure where shrubbery and trees won't survive without water. The problem becomes more pronounced with the blistering days of summer now upon us.

One result is the eyesores that are created help breed rodent infestation and other nuisances, in addition to being offensive for the community as a whole.

Another result is that the problem of foreclosures is rampant, and residents who do their best to properly maintain their homes should not have to be penalized by the inconsideration of others.

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. He is the author of the novels "Falling Dominoes" and "One At A Time." Contact him at