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COLUMN

Happytown

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Surely there’s more where this came from – and hopefully Nelson’s team is shovel-ready – but for now, as Haridopolos dives into the treacherous world of fundraising favors, we can only lament the passing of our favorite non-porn guy-on-guy story arc. Farewell, CannonHair. We hardly 
knew you.

Usually, when we have to write about a complex, boring subject like the troubled housing market, we have to smoke some synthetic weed and flip through real estate catalogs by candlelight to get the creative juices flowing. But we were recently reminded that to demonstrate the toxic growth of suburbia, all we needed to do was soberly point at new homes reeking with the rotten-egg sulfuric fumes of cheap “Chinese drywall.” The material reportedly turns metal fixtures inside homes black and corrodes copper tubing, all while giving tenants headaches, asthma attacks and even nosebleeds. If that shit isn’t evil, nothing is.

Recently, a company called Chinese Drywall Recovery USA sent us a note to say that it was holding “community meetings” around the coast of Florida last week to “help victims of Chinese drywall to negotiate a suspension of mortgage payments pending remediation of their homes.” (According to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, the vast majority of these “victims” are in Florida, where 57 percent of total cases in the U.S. 
are found.)

Naturally, we thought this could be another tale of recession vultures making lemonade from someone else’s lemons, but when we contacted the company, we were told it hadn’t made a dollar yet, and when it did, the money would come from the lenders, not the distressed homeowners. “We want these people to be able to leave their homes and go someplace safe,” says John Campbell, who along with his wife, founded the company after some of their own investment properties in Slidell, La., were discovered to have the dreaded toxic taint of hurry-up-and-build (and Chinese drywall). Campbell says that some people are staying in toxic homes because they’re still obligated financially; freezing the payments would allow them to rent a livable residence without paying for the nosebleed huts as well.

Campbell’s company is also pushing for a permanent reduction in the principal of the mortgaged homes, given that even after remediation, tainted history is much harder to remove than tainted drywall.

It’s a Herculean challenge, given the task ahead: forcing banks and politicians not only to listen, but to act. Hopefully, the whiff of the dollar will be adequate motivation for the Campbells to doggedly pursue the issue until it becomes a bona fide Drywallgate: “We’re only going to get paid if we can persuade the elected officials in Washington to get Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae on board with a program along the lines of what we’ve been talking about,” Campbell says.

One encouraging, if not predictable sign: U.S. Senator (and mortal enemy of chromium-6) Bill Nelson, is already on the case. Wouldn’t he look good in a Captain Planet costume?

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