4/14/2006 HOUSTON -- Teams of building inspectors from Houston spent the past two days in New Orleans checking on properties. FEMA says the properties are livable again, so the former tenants have to go home. But, based on a sampling of homes checked out by the Houston inspectors, most of the buildings are far from livable.
"General neighborhoods are not up and running yet," said building inspector Stewart Hoevelman. Nearly eight months after Katrina hit Southeast Louisiana, hundreds of thousands of families can't come home. Many of the neighborhoods damaged or destroyed by the storm still face a long road back. 35,000 families are now living in FEMA paid for apartments in Houston. FEMA just told 8,000 of them, they no longer qualify for help because their homes in the New Orleans area are livable again.
Houston Mayor Bill White dispatched a team of building inspectors to Louisiana to verify what FEMA is saying. They spent the past two days checking on 60-properties. Inspector Hoevelman says of the 25 properties he looked out, only two or three were livable. Those properties already had new tenants. He says the others still have a long way to go.
"Some of the things that would make the apartment uninhabitable would be they've been gutted down to the stud walls," said Hoevelman. "The electrical meters are missing so they don't have utilities or electricity. You look in and the homes have mold on the dry wall." Houston Mayor Bill White is fearful the feds are going to leave many families homeless in his city. He is hoping the information his inspectors got in New Orleans will convince FEMA to extend the eviction deadline. As many as 30,000 Katrina evacuees could lose their temporary housing on May 31st.