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U.S. Left Holding the Bag after Housing Collapse

(AP / file)
After seizing control of more than 150 failed banks in the last two years, the U.S. government reluctantly finds itself in the real estate business.

According to a Wall Street Journal report Tuesday, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. now owns more than 5,000 foreclosed properties taken from small banks that collapsed as the housing market went into the tank.

The entire catalog of properties, ranging from an $18,700 home in Birmingham, Ala., to a $1.7 million lodge tucked in the mountains of Steamboat Springs, Colo., carries an appraised value of $1.8 billion.

As the Journal's Michael M. Phillips writes: "The financial crisis started with Americans buying homes they couldn't afford. It is ending with the government struggling to sell buildings it never wanted."

Phillips charts the FDIC's efforts to sell troubled Dresden Heights – an unfinished housing development in Atlanta that counts an interstate highway and a pest control company as neighbors.

Among the many challenges facing the FDIC – a decaying constructions site, looters and the fact that potential buyers would technically have to trespass to get to their homes (the original developer took out loans from two different banks to buy the land and then build on it).