Ike victims could lose their own homes

October 5, 2009 5:05:53 PM PDT
A year hasn't been enough time for some homeowners on the road to recovery from Hurricane Ike. They still don't have the money to rebuild, but some cities are warning them to either make the repairs or leave. They say the properties are dangerous. Mark Holland and his brother Rick live in a storage shed behind their Clear Lake Shores home. After Hurricane Ike gutted their family home they didn't have the money to rebuild. They are not alone. In Kemah, Manuel Chavez, Jr., and his extended family face a similar problem.

"I hope to God that somebody is going to help us out, to build a new house," Chavez said. "The hurricane changed our lives, it did."

The cities of Kemah and Clear Lake Shores, though, say these homeowners have two choices -- either rebuild their homes up to code, or find alternative housing that's safe to live in.

Kemah City Administrator Bill Kerber said, "We have an obligation as a government for protection and welfare of the community. And that's not just the people who that we're talking about in those houses. It's not just them, it's their neighbors."

Jack Fredey is the building inspector for both Clear Lake Shores and Kemah. He says city leaders are in a quandary. They don't want to evict people out of their own homes, but they don't want them to live in unsafe conditions.

"According to all the ordinances and the codes and all, they really shouldn't be living in these houses," Fredey explained. "It's unhealthy, it's unsafe, it's not sanitary. It's not safe for them, but they just don't have any place to go."

The Holland brothers say they want to stick it out for as long as possible until as they find jobs and move.. As for Manuel, he's got until January to try and find the money to save his family's home.

"Either we have to tear down or leave," he said. "We need to find a place."

Clear Lake Shores and Kemah officials say that between the two communities, there are about five families in similar situations, but they are not alone. Small communities throughout the area are facing similar issues. City leaders don't want to condemn the homes, but they are finding few other options.

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