Households with low incomes are most impacted by disasters, yet they receive the least assistance and fewest protections when recovering afterward. The recovery following Hurricane Ian is proving to be no exception to this pattern. Along the southwest and central Florida coast, which was devastated by catastrophic winds and storm surge following Hurricane Ian last week, notices to vacate are appearing on the doors of many residents who have few alternatives for housing. In other cases, tenants are refusing to evacuate to safer areas out of fear that their landlords will terminate their leases based on their absence.
Earlier this week, at the Harmony Shores Mobile Home Park, park owners – who are investors with Cove Communities – sent residents orders to vacate their homes just four days after Hurricane Ian had flooded these very homes. The company initially indicated that Collier County had issued the notice but later admitted that it had issued the order itself. An inspection by the county found that the homes, while damaged, did not constitute dangers to public health necessitating vacate orders. After outrage from residents and involvement by State Representative Bob Rommel (R-Naples), Cove Communities stated that residents had the right to remain in their homes as long as they wished. Cove Communities, which purchased the park in 2021 for $18.5 million, had been attempting to buy out residents living in the community prior to the storm. Residents state that rents for apartments in the area are well above their incomes and that many would have no place to go if they were removed from the park.
In Orange County, which suffered catastrophic flooding due to Hurricane Ian, another community was dealing with similar issues. The landlord of the Cypress Landing Apartments in Pine Castle told residents during a community meeting that flooded units would have to be vacated by the end of October. Given the housing crisis occurring in central Florida, it is unlikely that alternate affordable units could be found, meaning that many of the households are now facing homelessness. Such evictions are illegal under Florida law but often occur following disasters, when landlords can use the disaster as an opportunity to remove tenants and then rent out units at higher prices to displaced homeowners or higher-income renters.
The “Federal Disaster Housing Stability Act of 2021,” a bill introduced by Representative Val Demings (D-FL) and endorsed by NLIHC and its Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition, would address some of these issues by instituting an automatic 90-day moratorium on evictions in areas impacted by disasters. The bill would also create a post-disaster foreclosure moratorium for six months following a disaster.
Read the text of the Federal Disaster Housing Stability Act at: https://bit.ly/3fQj7NM
View NLIHC’s updated Hurricane Ian page at: https://bit.ly/3yMuQnd