Tag Archives: disaster recovery

Four Months of Limbo

12 Feb

After The Fire

Today is the 18th Monday since we sat in a hotel watching in horror as our neighborhood burned to the ground, and although we would later count ourselves among the lucky ones because our homes were still standing–we didn’t lose everything–the irony is that we, the #JE44, are the ones who have been in limbo all this time.  Here are the facts.

Because our homes are still standing, the insurance payout was only limited to the policy cap of additional living expenses due to displacement, which was on average $6,582.

Insurance also paid to repair physical damage, cleanup of smoke damage, property loss, and spoiled food–which essentially means that once we are able to use our homes again, we will pay the difference between the actual cost to repair and replace, since the insurance companies payout based on their estimates of fair market value at the time of the incident.  The fact is, the actual cost has skyrocketed because of the enormous demand for materials and services.

FEMA denied housing assistance because we had insurance.  For those still living in a FEMA motel, their time runs out soon and they have to file an appeal based on being “under insured”.  None of us knew we were under insured.  We all thought, “No problem, I have insurance!”  Many of my neighbors are in dire straits because they cannot use their home–utilities have not been restored and the owner of the park is trying to sell the land, and the buyer is promising to build “affordable” housing (highly unlikely that the legal requirement of this new “affordable” housing will match what we had, which was less than $700/month including utilities).

Basically, our retirement homes were destroyed and they’re not coming back, and even though we had insurance, our losses were not covered because technically the insurance company did not have to move our homes, and legally we cannot force the land owner or the buyer to restore what was.

Let this be a warning to everyone who thinks they’re covered.  We all would have been better off if we had no insurance at all–every one of our neighbors who had no insurance was eligible for FEMA housing assistance.

After four months, we still have no idea what is going to happen to our homes.

“Can’t you move it?”  One neighbor received a quote of $60,000 to move their double-wide custom home.  Another neighbor received a quote of $13,000 to move a single-wide less than 30 miles away.  There are no available sites within 100 miles.

So 44 families are still in limbo because the park owner and the prospective buyer won’t tell us what they are planning.  This feels wrong.

Journey’s End … Before & After

Giving Thanks for a New Home

19 Nov

newhome

Week Six

It was evident within days of the firestorm that destroyed our community that living in Santa Rosa was no longer an option.  The issue of affordable housing had already been a factor in the region, and with multiple disasters hitting the U.S. in September and October, a sudden shortage of new construction materials would mean higher prices and longer waits.  Compound that problem with the necessity of City and County reorganizing and rethinking how best to rebuild, and now you’re talking years before we can return to Santa Rosa.  Our decisions had to be made immediately and would impact the rest of our lives.  For me and my husband, it made sense to return to SoCal.

We are fortunate in that I can work anywhere via internet and my husband can find work in any major city.  At first we considered San Diego because my husband’s son lives there and we thoroughly enjoyed our vacation in that sunny, breezy, beach city.  The other idea was to invest in a condo near California State University in Long Beach because my son is transferring there in 2018, and since I promised to help him through college, this was the most practical location.  It was with some trepidation, however, that on October 23rd we signed a contract with our future and opened a 30-day escrow period; tomorrow we sign loan documents to seal the deal, and on Wednesday we will have the keys.

This year on the fourth Thursday of November, we will begin moving into the top/front unit in the building shown above–the one with the beautiful arched window over the balcony.  Donations from co-workers, friends and family combined with a partial insurance payout buffered most of the loss, and pulling a chunk out of retirement savings made our Thanksgiving home possible.

Our joy is mixed with sorrow, however, while my husband’s Mom remains in dire straits.  Her insurance policy did not cover the full cost to move the mobile home, she still owes $19,000 to the bank, and reports of looting in our neighborhood have kept her on edge.  She has been very sick for two weeks, and has been staying in hotels or with friends for six weeks.  We hope she can sell her home soon and start over in a city near us that has affordable homes for retirees.

JEMHP-SaharaStIt has been a daunting post-traumatic period, cushioned by many acts of kindness and friendship.  Throughout this epic loss, the blessings of living in a civilized country have kept us from sinking into poverty and despair.  The firestorm would have incinerated the entire region were it not for thousands of brave people and the advantages of technology pushing back the flames.  We are most thankful that my husband awoke when he did, that our lives were spared, and that we did not lose everything.  ♥

Happy-Thanksgiving1beach
Image courtesy of LivePuntaMita.com