The day before Hurricane Ike blew through the Texas coast, the Houston Apartment Association (HAA) saw its Web site get more than 2,000 hits as property owners and renters sought safety tips and information. It was a dramatic jump from the site's usual activity. That gives officials hope that some of the damage has been limited, but the scene remained grim in the days following the deadly hurricane.

“Our members are still assessing damage,” said Amy Arrington, public affairs specialist at HAA, four days after the Sept. 13 hurricane hit the state. “We are starting to get some reports, and many owners are dealing with power outages and roof repairs.”

HAA was working with the city of Houston to evaluate the area's many multifamily housing properties, particularly those serving low- and moderate-income households, to help meet residents' needs, she said.

HAA had also teamed with Apartment Inventory Management (AIM) to allow city officials and apartment firms to access AIM's database to identify available apartments.

One of the area's most prominent apartment owners, Camden Property Trust, has its corporate office and 16 communities in the Greater Houston region. Although every community was impacted, none sustained major damage, reported the firm. The damage was primarily in three main categories: non-structural roof and siding damage, landscaping, and perimeter fencing. A preliminary estimate of the repair cost was $2 million to $4 million, with Camden's exposure expected to be around $1.3 million, representing the firm's estimated insurance policy deductible for the storm, said the company.

Repairs were under way, but the biggest obstacle has been the lack of power at several properties, according to the firm.

As Houston took its first steps toward recovery, hard-hit Galveston was still largely closed the week following the hurricane.

“The impression that we get from talking to members is there is significant damage to apartment communities down there,” said George Allen, executive vice president of the Texas Apartment Association (TAA) on Sept. 18. “I think it depends on where the community was located and when it was constructed.”

Many of the properties were built in the 1980s or earlier, so there hasn't been a lot of new construction on the island. As a result, the buildings were not built to the same standards that exist today. Beaumont was also hit hard, and significant damage is expected there as well, Allen 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. It took months to get Hurricane Rita claims through the process due to the sheer volume of claims involved, according to Allen.

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