As rescue efforts continued Monday, apartment owners and officials in Texas were among those trying to get a grasp on the devastation left by Hurricane Ike.
"We've not been able to get in touch with anyone in Galveston," said George Allen, executive vice president of the Texas Apartment Association. "It's shut down."
Five deaths and nearly 150 collapsed structures were reported in the coastal community Monday. The numbers are expected to rise as waters recede and damages can be better assessed.
Some apartment buildings have fallen, but details coming from the island were sparse, Allen said. It also looked bad for Beaumont, with several communities believed to be under water.
The reports coming out of Houston were also spotty, but most of the early news coming from the city involved roof damage caused by fierce winds or fallen trees, Allen said. He noted that areas of the city were still without power. "It doesn't look good," he added.
Houston-based Camden Property Trust, a real estate investment trust that owns interest in more than 62,000 apartments nationwide, had posted an emergency line for its residents on the company's Web site.
The same region was hit hard by powerful Hurricane Rita three years ago, but Ike's assault looks even worse at this point, Allen reported.
"All focus is on search and rescue," said Michael Gerber, executive director of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA), the state housing agency. "That's the priority. As we get into the ensuing days, we will look at how to get people back into their homes and how to rebuild their communities and lives."
TDHCA helped distribute about $500 million in recovery aid following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, with more than $300 million going to rebuild single-family and multifamily housing, Gerber said.
Following the rescue efforts, the next steps will include identifying shelter for displaced residents. Owners will also have the task of filing insurance claims, which will likely take some time. According to Allen, it took months to get Hurricane Rita claims through the process because of the sheer volume of claims involved.
Donna Kimura is deputy editor of Affordable Housing Finance, a sister publication to Multifamily Executive.