ORD CAME LATE ON a Thursday afternoon. The bank planned to sell Lynette Neidhardt’s house two weeks later, ona Friday. Theplaceshe
had called home for 23 years, a two-bedroom
Craftsman on a hilly street in Oakland, California,
would be auctioned at the county courthouse.
Neidhardt, 63, was worn down. She’d been bat-
tling to save her home for two years—ever since
the sputtering economy had sideswiped her one-
woman graphic design business and she could
no longer keep up with her mortgage payments.
Still, she kept fighting. That Friday morning
Neidhardt and more than a dozen friends and
neighbors strode into a downtown bank branch,
chanting: “Stop the auction; stop the sale today!”
Her bank agreed to postpone the foreclosure,
and in January 2011 it put her into a trial loan-
modification program that cut her monthly pay-
ments almost in half.
In the wake of the housing crash, millions of
older Americans like Neidhardt are struggling
to pay their mortgages. A 2010 survey by the
National Community Reinvestment Coalition
found that 45 percent of distressed homeowners seeking help through its counseling services
were older than 50.
Homeowners have also lost tens of thousands of dollars in home equity—money they
were counting on to bankroll retirement.
Nationwide, home prices are down more than
30 percent since their 2006 peak, according to
By Maryann Haggerty
and Michael Hudson
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