Andrew causes heavy loss of HUD housing

September 20, 1992|By Boston Globe

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sent an "emergency response team," including four top officials, to Florida and Louisiana to assess a heavy loss of federally subsidized housing due to damage from Hurricane Andrew.

HUD was among the biggest losers in Andrew's path of destruction. With their many retirees and low-income immigrants, Miami and surrounding areas have an unusually high proportion of subsidized developments. About 60 percent of those apartments were destroyed, officials said.

The agency estimated that $128 million worth of Florida public housing projects, elderly developments and homes carrying federal mortgages were damaged or destroyed by Andrew. HUD losses in Louisiana will top $18 million, the agency said.

In addition, HUD is likely to end up footing a bill several times larger for disaster relief following President Bush's pledge to aid local governments in Florida and Louisiana in rebuilding homes and apartments lost to the hurricane.

Already, HUD is preparing to open 2,050 units of emergency housing in Florida, mostly around Miami and Palm Beach, and 758 units in Louisiana. Hundreds of millions of dollars in federal mortgage assistance is available for families in Florida and Louisiana to rebuild homes.

But even that level of aid seems unlikely to suffice for what Federal Housing Commissioner Arthur Hill estimates are "as many as 300,000 homeless."

To help displaced HUD tenants and others who lost their homes, the agency is allowing emergency waivers to free up access to most of their programs, including some that offer

government-backed loans to homeowners for 100 percent of their rebuilding costs.

Mr. Hill said he surveyed the numerous public housing and other HUD-assisted developments and found them mostly destroyed. In the HUD portfolio, he said, were a large number of elderly developments in Miami; housing for low-income families in the smaller cities of Homestead, Florida City and Gould; and other houses and mobile homes owned by families with federally backed mortgages.

Although some HUD officials privately raised questions about the quality of the construction of HUD developments in Southern Florida, Mr. Hill said he believed they survived the storm as well as bank-financed housing.

"The HUD portfolio stood up just as well as any down there -- but against 167 mph winds, it was pretty bad," he said. "There were metal pipes twisted, huge banyan trees uprooted. It was a very powerful hurricane."

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