Prince William Foreclosures Get International Attention

By Alejandro Lazo

Prince William County's high rate of home foreclosures is drawing some international eyes. Piotr Malecki, a 41-year-old Polish photojournalist, concluded a two-week reporting trip in the county yesterday, documenting people who have either lost or are on the brink of losing their homes in Woodbridge, Dumfries, Manassas and other parts of the county.

Piotr Malecki (By Alejandro Lazo)

The subprime mortgage meltdown, and subsequent credit crisis, has roiled global markets over the last year, making the U.S. housing bubble a global issue. In the Washington area, Prince William County has been one of the hardest-hit areas. In May, the Land Records Office of the county's Circuit Court recorded 797 trustee sales, the second-highest in the past two years after December.

Malecki was seated on a brown leather couch at the Java-Roo café in downtown Manassas on Tuesday, banging out some final e-mails back home to Warsaw. He was going to head back to the District, then to New York, and fly home Saturday.

Malecki settled on Prince William County as a subject for his photographs, which will publish in the weekly news magazine Polityka, after finding a map of the United States that showed regions hit by foreclosure in red. Malecki chose Prince William out of those regions because another Polish journalist he is working with on the project is based in the District.

Many of his subjects over the last two weeks were Latinos who, he said, had fallen victim to predatory lending practices. Many were reluctant to be photographed, citing the shame over the experience of foreclosure. Poland has experienced its own housing boom in recent years, Malecki said. He feared his country could experience similar trouble in the future.

"Maybe this is the moment to let people know they need to think twice about doing something that may affect their lives for many years to come," Malecki said. "I am not against credit or mortgages. . . but it is just a question of evaluating how much one can really take on."

By Terri Rupar  |  July 2, 2008; 12:11 PM ET  | Category:  Real Estate
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