Home News Hurricane Ian destroyed homes, worsening housing crisis for thousands

Hurricane Ian destroyed homes, worsening housing crisis for thousands

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ESTERO, Fla. — Billions of dollars in damage caused by Hurricane Ian have exacerbated an already imminent housing crisis in Florida, sending thousands of displaced people to their homes in one of the nation’s most expensive states. I’m wondering if I should live here.

About 1,700 people remained in emergency shelters on Monday. Many of them were evacuated before 150 mph winds destroyed their homes or storm surges flooded much of the state and made them uninhabitable. After a hurricane makes landfall. Some lived temporarily with family and friends, while others remained in dire conditions in broken homes with few options.

In a state of gorgeous high-rise condominium developments and multi-million dollar housing with stunning views of the surrounding waterfront, the hardest hit will be the fixed-income residents and working poor families that make up the backbone of Florida’s economy. said the affordable housing advocate.

“This is a tragedy for them and a tragedy for the community as a whole. Communities are already suffering from not being able to live where people work,” said the president and chief executive officer of the Florida Housing Coalition. CEO Jamie Ross said. Across the state, he estimates there is a shortage of 500,000 homes that low- and middle-income families can afford.

“We were already on the verge before Ian came along,” she said.

State officials said 68 people had died as a result of the storm, including two in Charlotte County. But officials there said 23 people were killed directly or indirectly by the storm. I’m here.

Breadth of Survivor Problems It was on display inside the Hearts Arena Entertainment Center in Estero. He is one of several collective shelters currently operating in the state for hurricane victims.

Inside the stadium, home to the Florida Everblades Minor League Ice Hockey Team, hundreds roamed and lay on donated inflatable mattresses.

A family of five had camped near one of the beer stands, but had gathered further near a statue of a hockey player wielding a stick. There was barking of dogs and crying babies everywhere, mixed with the strong smell of large numbers of people who hadn’t bathed since Ian leveled the community last week.

Peggy Delaney, 71, had taken refuge in one of the stadium bleachers with her three cats. Just above that was a little girl cuddling a stuffed elephant on a mattress her family put in her box her rink penalties empty ice her area.

“$169 a night!? I can’t afford that,” Delaney exclaimed as she scrolled through Airbnb options on her iPad.

She arrived at the arena on Friday after being rescued from the Fort Myers condo she and her friends bought in June. During Wednesday’s storm, she saw her three feet of water seep into the unit. This was enough to turn over a refrigerator and an antique dresser.

Now with nowhere else to go and Social Security checks making up most of their income, retired office managers feel trapped in a different way.

She wanted to know if the homeowner’s insurance would cover damage to the condo and if the flood insurance claim she filed with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that morning would lead to temporary housing. waiting.

“They said they might be able to get me somewhere in 20 days,” Delaney said of FEMA. But now I’m afraid I won’t be able to withdraw money from the condo.”

“I couldn’t cry until I got here.”

Out in the lobby, Oscar Garcia sat on an inflatable mattress, staring at nothing in particular. His wife Irene Garcia cleaned up trash near her three children, ages 2, 10 and 15.

Oscar Garcia, 32, said his Fort Myers Beach apartment was completely flooded when he returned from the storm. The mold had already built up on the walls and there was nothing else he could do to remove it, he said.

They were paying $1,200 a month for the house, but the price had already skyrocketed, said Garcia, a warehouse worker at a roofing company. The last time he looked, the monthly rent for a comparably sized apartment in the area was about $2,000.

“I called everyone I could think of for help,” he said of his housing options. “You can make so many calls.”

Janet Morris, 70, had another problem. She was already homeless when Ian went on strike.This situation started in June after single-wide rent The trailer she was staying in increased in price from $728 to $1,000 per month. Now, as she saw, everyone around her had more competition for the limited low-income housing options she was applying for.

While living on Social Security for several years, Morris said, “I was scared of being homeless, but look at me now.”

“But I am not alone now,” she adds with a wry smile, gesturing to displaced families around her. “I have many companies. Many companies.”

In an already overheated real estate market, a scramble for new homes is likely to push prices higher, according to housing experts.

In some areas of Southwest Florida, homes unaffected by the storm were rented for $5,000 a month, while two-bedroom apartments were $2,000 a month.

Even those who weren’t sucked into the storm’s wreckage will be affected in some way, says Lee Interface Four, an affordable housing advocacy group in the Fort Myers area, which suffered the most damage from the hurricane. Empowerment lead organizer Chelsea Pleasence said.

“Everybody in the rental market will see prices go up because of all the other people that are entering the rental market,” Mr. Pleasence said. It will happen.”

Kristen Santello, 50, doesn’t consider herself to be in that category. But after five feet of water flooded her beachfront home in the Island Park neighborhood of Fort Myers, which she and her boyfriend David DiGiacomo had just renovated after they bought it in April, Santero also took their place. I wasn’t sure what my options were.

They moved in with some friends just before the storm hit. But with 3 cats, her 1 dog, and him with 5 kids, I wasn’t sure how long this situation would last.

“Honestly, I don’t have a very positive outlook of ever finding anything.”

Some people have had little choice when their homes were damaged by the hurricane.

Orange Harbor Mobile Home and RV Park was a “55 Plus Community” in Fort Myers Shores with 365 trailers. 90% of it was damaged or destroyed when the nearby Caloosahatchee River flooded the area.

Water and the foul-smelling black mud mixed with it overturned refrigerators, chewed through hardwood floors and flooded electrical outlets. The storm also put the park’s water and sanitation systems at risk.

Located on land between the Caloosahatchee and Orange Rivers, Orange Harbor offered many residents a life they probably could not replicate anywhere else.

Many of the properties have docks, and the Gulf of Mexico was just an hour’s boat ride away. During the winter, manatees migrate into the mangrove forests that surround the community. Orange Harbor also says he’s less than a mile from Interstate 75, the largest north-south route in western Florida, and many residents say it’s located close to families living throughout Florida. increase.

Before the storm, developers were pressuring Orange Harbor homeowners to sell their properties.

Homeowners Association shareholders Timothy and Susan Paul said a developer recently offered to buy the property for $84 million.

But homeowners voted 100 to 45 not to sell the land, said Susan Paul, 71.

The hurricane struck just five days after Susan Paul retired from her job as the head security guard at Fort Myers High School.

in their trailer Although now demolished, the couple and several other residents said they are considering moving further inland to an area of ​​Florida that is already experiencing rapid population growth.

“There are a lot of nice places around Orlando, in the heart of the state,” said 77-year-old Timothy Paul. People, you can’t live here.

Most Orange Harbor residents do not have insurance. Insurance companies do not provide insurance for old mobile homes.

Some say they are planning to move away from their property, giving up on their dream of retiring debt-free. Some residents continue to live in trailers, choosing to put up with the lack of a sanitary system.

Gail Stagnar, 72, paid $18,000 for a trailer three years ago. This allowed her to stop renting and reduce her time as a paralegal to four days a week.

Now, with river mud clinging to most of her belongings, someone has hauled off the trailer, ready to go back to the rental.

“But the rent is so high that I don’t know,” Stagnar said. “Maybe I’ll go back to working five days a week.”

Bob Rowley, 69, smoked while riding in his golf cart to avoid the stifling heat in his trailer, where floodwaters still soaked the carpet.

Lawley moved out of Philadelphia to his trailer in April and paid $30,000.

Partially paralyzed after breaking a vertebra in the fall, he said he had $13,000 in savings, but that’s not enough to start over.

“My plan is to stay because I like the river. I’ll take a cart and go see the sunset,” he said. “If I go back to Philadelphia, I think I’ll die from the cold.”

when his wife bathes him In the front bucket of the trailer, Charlie Dupont couldn’t comprehend how quickly Ian changed his life.

Three days before the storm hit, DuPont, 84, and his wife, Mary Ellen, 71, were ready to accept someone’s $147,000 offer to buy the trailer they spent three years fixing. rice field. They often fantasized.

Now that deal is probably dead, DuPont said.

The couple seemed to be worried about where to live next. She wants to stay in Florida and she says “For better or worse or indifferent you will never make me leave.”

He said he was open to the idea of ​​trying their luck elsewhere.

“If it had sold, it would have been perfect for us,” Dupont said of the trailer, as his wife tried to scrape the seemingly ubiquitous sticky mud off his back. , I don’t know why God hates us so much.”

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