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Andrew Makes South Florida a Manhattan for Housing With AM-Hurricane Insurance, Bjt

September 1, 1992

Andrew Makes South Florida a Manhattan for Housing With AM-Hurricane Insurance, Bjt. Also moving on general news wires as AM-Hurricane-Housing Crunch

MIAMI (AP) _ Every available apartment in Dade County has been snapped up since Hurricane Andrew, transforming a renter’s market into a housing squeeze.

Poor people already have lost out in the competition for available homes, and housing they can afford may never be rebuilt, officials said.

″This is a crisis,″ said Mike Dye, chairman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. ″There’s not a piece of rental property left in Dade County.″

″This housing market has become incredibly, incredibly tight,″ said Paul Lambert, a housing analyst at Goodkin Research Corp. ″Miami all of the sudden has become like Manhattan.″

Of the 386,267 people who lived in hard-hit south Dade County, up to 150,000 were left homeless by the storm, said county spokeswoman Virginia Sanchez. Other estimates say up to 250,000 were left homeless.

According to the Red Cross and state officials, about 85,400 houses, mobile homes and apartment units were destroyed or damaged.

While lower-income survivors squatted in the ruins of their homes or stayed with friends or relatives, people with means quickly snapped up available apartments and homes last week.

″They’re grabbing whatever’s available without looking at them, just as long as it has a roof and power,″ Judy Peralta, an agent at Flamingo Real Estate Associates, said Monday.

″People are sleeping in the streets. People are very, very desperate,″ said Carmen Ochoa, who drove down from Fort Pierce to help find housing for relatives who lost four homes.

Three days of effort produced only one success: a small home, 35 traffic- clogged miles away in Carol City, where eight of her relatives will live together and pay $1,200 a month in rent.

People with jobs in Homestead and Florida City said they were happy to get housing more than an hour to the north.

Helen Eubank and her boyfriend lived in a huge two-bedroom home on a lake in Homestead before the storm. Two days later, they snapped up, sight-unseen, the last apartment available in a development in Davie.

The place is smaller, costs $115 more each month, is 60 miles from her job and won’t even be available for two weeks.

″We’re extremely lucky,″ Ms. Eubank said. ″It felt good to know right then we’d have somewhere to go.″

Luxury homeowners looking for similar temporary accommodations while their properties are repaired have been stymied by stiff condominium rules in northeast Dade County, which escaped the storm virtually unscathed.

″They want something comparable. And they only want it for a month, three months, six months tops ... but the condos aren’t bending,″ said Lynn Meek, a Century 21 agent.

One lawyer offered to rent his modest home in Coral Gables for $10,000 a month, but agents refused to help him at that price, said Robert Stanley, president of Southeast Florida Coldwell Banker.

For many, the storm left little reason to stay in Florida.

″We’ve run into several people who say the company they work for is gone, their house is gone, and they say ’What the hell, I’m going back where I came from,″ Stanley said.

About 80 percent of the 1,600 public housing units in south Dade were destroyed or badly damaged, and many other small, worn-out homes that rented for $200 or $300 a month were wiped out.

These places may never be rebuilt, said Dade housing director Greg Byrne.

″These things were just obliterated,″ he said. ″If you’re upper income, so you get gouged and pay more. If you’re at the lower end, you got nothing. There’s nowhere to go.″

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