The human toll of the housing crisis

The housing crisis of a decade ago turned home prices and people’s futures upside down. While the nation rebounded and the Seattle area launched into a historic economic revival, some homeowners found themselves facing foreclosure. Here are the stories of four women who fought to save their homes — and found a common cause.

THE OLD SAYING goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Dixie Mitchell raised a village.

Nine children with her late husband, Luster Mitchell. More than four dozen foster children she treated as her flesh and blood.

The life of their house in Seattle’s Central District can be measured in milestones — births, arrivals, first days at school, graduations, marriages, grandchildren and grandchildren’s children.

It has been 50 years since she and Luster purchased their big fixer-upper for about $15,000.

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Memories hang on the walls like ivy in the form of family photos, knickknacks and old tools from Luster’s days building railroads and doing projects around the house.

They’d borrowed money to do expensive major improvements, using their home as collateral.

The mortgage crisis that started in 2007 and led to the economic collapse of 2008 couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Luster suffered a paralyzing stroke in 2009, leaving him unable to work and the family struggling to make loan payments, which would eventually balloon by hundreds of dollars a month as the couple scrambled to fend off foreclosure.

“It went downhill from there,” Mitchell says one night in her kitchen, as great-grandchildren go back and forth to the add-on den that Luster built himself, in part with salvaged railroad iron.

“With my husband being sick, they came and tried to snatch the house out from under me,” she says. “My hopes and dreams were to make this my castle and live happily ever after. But that didn’t happen. Hard times starting coming in,…

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