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April 27, 2021

Recession causing abandoned swimming pools, increased risk of West Nile

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Sure, everywhere you look, it’s darker and darker.

Your local Starbucks is closing. Paul McCartney and Elton John are losing cash. Chrysler dealerships couldn’t sell a Scarlett Johansson sex tape at this point.

Yet here’s a sign of the economic times no one’s talking about. Entomologists are finding abandoned swimming pools, of all things, are providing a daunting picture of the recession as they turn into breeding grounds for disease-spreading mosquitoes.

It turns out the housing crisis – which has caused thousands of foreclosures – is sticking it to residential neighbourhoods on the back end, too. Homes with swimming pools left by its tenants, of course, have no one to care for them, and it’s posing a significant public health risk to families still living in the picked-clean areas.

Data isn’t immediately available for Canadian homes, but in Phoenix, for example, the number of pools left untended because of foreclosure could hit 14,000 this year, up from just 6,000 in 2007, the Associated Press reports.

And it’s not that the algae-infested mosquito sanctuaries are just ticking off residents with itchy bites. The risk of the West Nile virus and other diseases are growing exponentially in areas conducive to family cookouts and children playing in the streets.

Public health workers have been able to quench some of the problem, deploying a “mosquito fish” – a guppy, essentially – into the deserted pools. But supplies of the fish are limited, and finding similar species outside their native southern U.S. is tough.

The problem isn’t quite subject to a quick-fix like draining the pool, either, because a simple rainfall would provide enough standing water for mosquitoes to harvest themselves, anyway.

And the Associated Press story doesn’t take into account people still in their houses yet without the disposable cash to care for their existing pool. How many families aren’t quite thrilled to foot the bill for pricy chemicals this summer? How many have more pressing concerns than calling over the pool guy?

This story isn’t AIG ripping off taxpayer money for bonuses or anything, but it’s an interesting spin on the dangers of a poor economy. And as the weather starts to heat up, it’s worth keeping an eye on, at the very least.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...