September 04, 2005
Nearing capacity

Governor Perry says that Texas has taken in about all the evacuees it can handle.

Hurricane Katrina evacuees continued their exodus from Louisiana into Texas on Saturday, landing as far west as the sombrero-shaped El Paso Civic Center but flowing mainly to Houston, San Antonio and Dallas.

Gov. Rick Perry said the state was nearing its capacity to take evacuees.

Dallas officials asked Perry to urge the Federal Emergency Management Agency to curtail the influx there, well before that city had reached the state's goal of placing 15,000 evacuees in the Metroplex.

As San Antonio approached the halfway mark of its 25,000-person goal, it was pressing for stepped-up federal involvement in the costly humanitarian effort.

Along with Houston, which is accommodating 25,000 evacuees in four large government-owned facilities and thousands more in other shelters and hotels, San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth have borne the largest share of the task.

Pressure on those cities was starting to subside with use of facilities in Austin, Corpus Christi, Lubbock, Amarillo and Belton. Texas A&M University opened its Reed Arena to displaced Hurricane Katrina survivors.

"Texas is committed to doing everything it can to help our neighbors from Louisiana, but we want to make certain that we can provide them with the medical care, food, shelter, safety, education and other services they need to start getting their lives back together," Perry said Saturday.

"Local officials are beginning to notify us that they are quickly approaching capacity in the number of evacuees they believe they can assist," he said.

On Saturday alone, 6,000 Louisianans arrived by bus and 10,000 by military transport aircraft and commercial carriers, the governor's office reported. They joined nearly 125,000 people staying in 97 shelters around the state, many in the Houston area.

Additionally, an estimated 100,000 Louisianans are lodged in Texas hotels. An undetermined number has found other shelter in the state.

Perry renewed his call for more communities to come forward to help shoulder the load. Perry also implored officials in other states to help accommodate flooding victims.

In Houston, some evacuees are being moved from the Astrodome to other shelters.

At least 600 evacuees from Hurricane Katrina were going to be evacuated from the Houston Astrodome complex to other shelters in Texas, county and federal officials said this morning.

"We are over capacity now. The Astrodome has too many people -- 15,000 -- we are going to be moving more people in the Reliant Center and the George R. Brown convention center in downtown Houston," said County Judge Robert Eckels.

Several of the charter bus drivers said their initial instructions -- from officials of Metro -- were to drive their passengers to shelters in Austin or San Antonio.

"Harris County is being inundated with thousands of people coming to Texas. We are just trying to decide what the logistics will be," Eckels said.

About ten to 15 more charter buses were expected to arrive at the Reliant Astrodome complex early Sunday morning, as county, state and federal officials decided where to send more storm survivors.

It would seem that my concerns about an oversupply in Houston's housing market are at least for now no longer operative.

The number of Houston-area apartments available for hurricane victims is quickly shrinking.

Evacuees and corporate housing companies have been snapping up hundreds of units. Victims of Hurricane Katrina, who will be out of their homes for months, are seeking bigger, less costly places to live. In many cases they are looking for a place large enough to house a family spanning multiple generations on a tight budget.

"It appears the availability of apartments all over the city is going to be quickly going away," said Bruce McClenny, president of Apartment Data Services, a Houston firm that tracks apartment inventory.

While most of the requests for rentals last week were coming from corporate housing firms locking up blocks of units for companies needing to house employees, some were already being rented by evacuees trolling the city for places to stay.


Gavan James, senior vice president of Oakwood Corporate Housing, said in addition to businesses requesting housing for their displaced employees, government agencies involved in the rescue effort are creating demand.

"We're looking at doubling or tripling our operation in Houston based on this. And that's from what we know today. It could go exponentially higher," James said.

Apartment operators are feeling the pinch.

Rockwell Management, which runs 17 apartment complexes throughout Houston, received requests for more than 500 units last week from corporate relocation firms.

"Our availability is quickly diminishing," the company's Jill Koob said.


Demand is particularly strong for larger units that can house big families, according to leasing agents who are seeing families of five or more crammed in small apartments.

But most complexes typically contain a small percentage of large units.

"There's a real shortage of three-bedroom apartments all over Texas," said John Baen, a real estate professor at the University of North Texas. "The majority of apartments in Texas are one bedroom or efficiencies because they make more per square foot."


One company that converted six upscale apartment complexes to condominium properties is gong to use the unsold condos as rental units to house hurricane victims.

Ron Lozoff, owner of Atlanta-based Choice Condominiums, said some 500 units will be leased as apartments.

"All the apartments are filling up really quick," Lozoff said. "We have people walking in lobbies with kids in their arms and credit cards."

Moreover, National Realty Investments, an investment firm that buys new homes to resell, is renting 40 of its new homes to hurricane victims.

Scattered throughout the area, the homes are being offered on short-term leases at market rents.


Before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, there were some 70,000 empty apartments in Houston, amounting to a 14 percent vacancy rate, according to Apartment Data Services.

That led the owners of these units to offer special rates and concessions to lure renters to their properties.

But with the influx of new tenants, some said the days of eager landlords may soon pass.

"They will adjust their rates, I'm sure," McClenny said.

There tightening supply could become more severe if short-term renters end up here permanently.

Information related to assistance and volunteering will be in the next post.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 04, 2005 to Hurricane Katrina | TrackBack

Mr. Kuffner.
I was told that housing was being rented here in Cleveland, Ohio for the Katrina vicims, however I can't find any information about this here in Cleveland.I cannot afford to give the apartment because I wouldn't be able to pay for it but I can rent it. Where would I check for this information as I do have a 2 bedroom for rent.
Any information you can give would be really appreciated.

Posted by: S. Wilson on September 10, 2005 7:11 AM