State Sen. Mee Moua caught in housing crisis when parents’ home is foreclosed

State Sen. Mee Moua is experiencing the housing crisis first-hand.

A fascinating story in the Pioneer Press today reports how Moua and her family had been living in a large St. Paul house with her parents, but when the parents got behind in the payments on the house — which they bought for $800,000 — they faced foreclosure.

The house has since been sold by a bank for $379,000.

Moua insisted that the housing problem was not a factor in her surprise summer announcement that she wouldn’t seek re-election. She was the first Hmong-American in the country to be elected a state legislator.

The headline of the story says Moua’s family is now homeless, seeming to imply that they’re scrambling to find a place to sleep each night; but the story notes that they moved from her parents’ foreclosed home into her brother’s large home, across the street, in the neighborhood where the extended family once owned three large homes.

Moua told the paper that her father had suggested that they pool their money to buy the large home on a cul-de-sac on the eastern edge of St. Paul. Moua’s name does not appear on any of the financial paperwork, according to the paper.

Said the Pioneer Press:

In 2005, her parents bought the home on Oak Bluff Circle — a suburban-style cul-de-sac near South McKnight Road and Highwood Avenue — for $800,000, property records show.

With 5,032 square feet of finished space and a full second kitchen in the lower level, the freshly built stucco-and-stone house had ample room for Moua, her husband Yee Chang and their growing family.

“My husband and I didn’t have the income for a house in that area, so my father said let’s pool our resources so we can all live together,” Moua said.

That same year, Moua’s sister Vallay Varro, now a St. Paul school board member and Mayor Chris Coleman’s policy director for education, and her husband bought a house for $650,000 across the street. And their brother and his wife bought a similar house on the same street, according to property records. With the prominent family occupying three houses, the cul-de-sac became affectionately known around St. Paul as the “Moua compound.”

The parents had a 40-year, adjustable-rate mortgage for $640,000.

By September 2009, the house had fallen to below $500,000 in value, her parents owed more than $712,000 on the original mortgage, and they were more than $18,000 behind on payments, according to records filed with Ramsey County. JPMorgan Chase, the lender, began foreclosure actions.

Moua said they tried to sell the house in hopes of remaining there, but no deals panned out. By that point, “it made sense for my parents” to allow the home to fall into foreclosure, she said. “It was a calculation,” she said. On Dec. 8, JPMorgan Chase bought the house at a sheriff’s auction for $301,433 — a more than 60 percent fall in value from four years earlier.

Moua told the paper she’s handling the situation:

“When it started, I was embarrassed, and I thought I would feel public shame,” she said. “But I’ve come to terms with it, and I know I did my best.”

Moua hasn’t yet lined up a job for her post-Senate career, which begins Jan. 1, although she said “a couple of things are in process.”

She might not stay in Minnesota, she said, but she wouldn’t discuss specifics on what line of work she’s eyeing — or where.

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