An estimated 362,000 homes in Baja California have been abandoned by their owners and another 60,000 are at risk of abandonment, according to the national director of El Barzón, a Mexico nonprofit founded to assist consumers in economic trouble.
Speaking at a recent press conference in Tijuana, Alfonso Ramírez Cuellar called the mortgage crisis and its aftermath a “social tragedy.”
The abandoned homes are the leftovers of a nationwide housing boom in the early 2000s during which, according to Americas Quarterly, more than 7 million homes were constructed with government financing, making Infonavit “the largest mortgage lender in Latin America.”
By 2008, however, many Mexican workers had been slammed by economic hard times, either losing their jobs or agreeing to lower wages and fewer hours. As a consequence they were no longer able to afford their mortgage payments. Many of them took their families and moved elsewhere, leaving an estimated 2 million abandoned homes across Mexico.
Infonavit-Baja California currently has about 14,000 past-due mortgages on its books, the agency's regional delegate, Alejandro Arregui Ibarra, said in an interview published August 29 in El Sol de Tijuana.
Since 2014, he told the newspaper, about 7000 homes have been repossessed by Infonavit. Of those, he said, some 3000 have been renovated through a new program that fixes up the repossessed dwellings and puts them back on the market on a rent-to-own basis.
Baja California's state legislature last year also enacted measures to help owners refinance their mortgages at much lower interest rates. Repossession, said Arregui, is a last resort for his agency.
Still, thousands of abandoned homes dot sprawling, high-density developments in the eastern reaches of Tijuana and elsewhere in Baja, creating insecurity among the homeowners who have managed to hold on to their property.
“A home that once put a roof over the heads of a family today provides shelter to kidnappers, drug dealers, and robbers,” noted Martha Rueda, state coordinator for El Barzón in Baja California, in an El Sol interview also published on August 29.