Hurricane foreclosure

First they raise your insurance rates. Then they foreclose on your neighbor. Beach living may be overrated.

By Andrew Leonard

Published June 2, 2009 10:17AM (EDT)

Does Mother Nature have a sense of black humor or is she just out for some bloody-minded revenge? The Associated Press' Tamara Lush is reporting that "some of the areas most likely to be struck by a hurricane are suffering the most in this recession."

Overbuilt beach communities turn out to be foreclosure hot spots, reports Lush. "In March, there were 281,691 homes in foreclosure in Florida and coastal counties in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia." This presents a problem for homeowners who still are keeping up with their mortgage payments. Their neighbors' abandoned homes could end up sprinkling their own front yards with storm-tossed junk.

Unoccupied, these homes would be defenseless in a storm; there will be no one to put up shutters, batten down garage doors and otherwise secure homes. But that's not all. Nearby homes and their residents would also be at risk from wind-propelled debris.

Lehigh Acres and other communities at the epicenter of the nation's housing crisis are coming to realize that this year's hurricane season, beginning June 1, represents yet another pitfall. Hurricanes could make hazards of thousands of foreclosed-upon houses, and their diminished value could decrease even more.

The ignominy of living cheek-by-jowl with foreclosed homes ready to be blown apart by the next Category 5 howler is only magnified when you consider that insurance rates for homeowners in some of these very same regions have already gone through the roof. So you're paying through the nose to live in a neighborhood where a garage door could come winging onto your patio at a moment's notice. I guess the beach isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

The good news: This year's hurricane season, which begins today (June 1) is supposed to be just "average" according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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