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The six month anniversary of Hurricane Ike is a reminder to all coastal residents of the very real threat they face from high winds and storm surge. With the 2009 Hurricane Season less than three months away, the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) fears the foreclosure crisis could compound the potential for damage.
Approximately 50% of Americans live within 50 miles of the coast. Unfortunately, more than 600 thousand properties in the 16 hurricane-prone states are in some stage of foreclosure, according to data provided to IBHS by RealtyTrac. That’s 19% more than last year when IBHS issued a similar warning for residents from Texas to Maine.
While this information indicates that foreclosures could add a potentially extra hazardous twist to what’s predicted to be an active hurricane season, IBHS says there are ways to help minimize the risk to some vulnerable communities.
“Foreclosed homes that are either poorly maintained or otherwise left exposed to natural forces could be damaged or destroyed, producing large amounts of debris that takes aim at neighboring homes and businesses,” said IBHS President and CEO Julie Rochman. “We’re hopeful that new, creative programs like Freddie Mac’s REO Rental Initiative can keep these homes occupied, increasing the chance residents will take steps to secure the house when there’s a threatening storm.”
IBHS notes that a house is most vulnerable to high winds when the building “envelope” is not sealed by approved forms of opening protection, such as storm shutters or reinforced garage doors. Unsecured building materials or trash from partially completed homes also could become airborne missiles impacting nearby buildings.
IBHS recommends that homeowner associations and community groups try to determine who is responsible for unoccupied properties in their neighborhoods and encourage responsible parties to take meaningful loss prevention steps prior to hurricane season.