Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Property rights threatened again... (Shocked?? Nope)

When you read this here article from the (think Florida) you may find that you are initially thinking, "hey, that sounds like an okay idea." I mean I did for like a nanosecond.

It appears that the federal government is considering using vacant foreclosed homes as temporary shelter for victims of hurricanes, if needed, this upcoming storm season.

Here are some bits from the article...

If a major hurricane strikes Florida, authorities may take advantage of the foreclosure crisis to place displaced residents in vacant homes seized by banks.

Ruben Almaguer, interim director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, has proposed that the Federal Emergency Management Agency use foreclosed homes — which are particularly abundant in this state — as an alternative to placing people in trailers or scattering them around the country.

"Historically, no one has ever used foreclosed properties," Almaguer said. "If they have 1,000 foreclosed properties in the area, why not?

Why not?? For starters the property does not belong to the federal government. Foreclosed properties are still private property, and at least for now there is a bundle of rights that adhere to the owners of property.

"It may be cheaper, especially if they have to drive a trailer down from Kansas. The cost of driving that down, setting it up, now they've got to connect water, sewer, electricity, get permits pulled for it. That's resolved when you already have in place a fixed property. And what happens a month later when the second hurricane comes through the same area? Would you rather be in a foreclosed home or a travel trailer? I'd rather be in a foreclosed home."

FEMA released a noncommittal statement Wednesday describing the option as one of many "what-ifs" that could be considered in a catastrophe and stating that currently there is no such policy in place.

Sure... sounds dandy. Why not save the federal government a buck or two?? But then again, why is the federal government even in this game in the first place?? Oh that's right, bailing out poor decision making is all the rage these days.

States and local governments, not the federal government, should address potential problems such as these. Oops... looks like the local government there likes the idea too...

Chuck Lanza, Broward's emergency management director, said the idea was worth exploring. Unlike foreclosed homes, trailers would take time to get to where they're needed.

"If we have houses we could move people in quickly," he said. "To us to have extra houses would be great. It makes a lot of sense to have those houses on hand."

Only problem... Broward County does not own the property.

It's unclear whether banks would have any enthusiasm for placing storm refugees in homes they're trying to sell. Alex Sanchez, president of the Florida Bankers Association, said the proposal sounds good in theory but faces several obstacles.

Banks would probably find enthusiasm for helping out if they were paid for the trouble.

If hurricane victims are placed in the house before the title is transferred, who would get the rent payments, he asked, the debtor who defaulted on the mortgage?

Although banks don't particularly want to go into the rental property business, he said, they would want to do their share in an emergency.

"After a hurricane, we want to help," he said. "If the house is livable and the house is vacant, it's the compassionate thing to do. Why not put a Florida family in it for a transition stage?"

Ultimately, however, he said, "We want to get that house back into productive use by a Florida family who will buy it and get that community happy again with a family back in the house."

Said the right things. Compassion is fine and all, but the property is still owned by a private entity and rights should still hold sway. If a bank wants to help, that is up to them, not the government.

Nancy Norris, Florida spokeswoman for JPMorgan Chase, said she couldn't say yet whether the bank would be interested. But she said it takes care of its houses.

"Yes we do have a lot of homes now in our possession because they're in foreclosure. We are actively trying to resell these homes, so we take every precaution to make sure they're protected from hurricanes and from vandals. We treat it just as if we are homeowners, because we are homeowners."

Property owners with rights, she should have said (but in this politically correct world we live in this is the best answer, unfortunately).

Isabel Ulrich, 70, who lived in a FEMA trailer after Hurricane Frances devastated her house in West Palm Beach, said her temporary home actually was very nice.

"It had everything," she said. "A bedroom, a nice kitchen, a microwave. I was very satisfied."

And as a former landlord, she said she worried that hurricane refugees would trash private homes.

"I don't think it's a good idea to put people in houses," she said. "They'll ruin the houses. There's not much to ruin in a trailer."

Truth hurts, and in actuality I'd be willing to bet that the federal government (or state or local governments) would likely pony up even more money to the property owners for repairs than if they shipped a trailer down from Kansas. That is, if the governments actually gave a crap about property rights in the first place and agreed to fix the damage (not caused by a hurricane), which is questionable at best these days.

The proposal came on Wednesday, the day U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D- Miramar, sent a letter to FEMA complaining of a "lack of quality housing" for hurricane victims, particularly poor ones.

Hate to sound cold, but why is that my problem here in Arizona?? People, even poor people, don't have to live near the coast in Florida (you know, like where hurricanes sometimes cause destruction of private property).

State emergency chief Almaguer said he understands the proposal to use foreclosed homes has legal and financial challenges.

LOL... legal challenges?? You mean like throwing out the bundle of rights that come with private property?? Property rights are dying... and WE ARE ALL REALLY GOING TO MISS THEM.

But Hurricane Katrina showed that when people leave an area for temporary housing, they often don't come back.

But shouldn't that be the choice of the individual?? I mean if I owned a home that was destroyed by a hurricane I'd think long and hard about whether or not to rebuild the structure on my property. Maybe I would, maybe I wouldn't. That is on me, the individual, to weigh the risks involved.

If the government is so concerned about people staying in place... perhaps they'd instead take on the task to defeat hurricanes before they strike and cause damage. You bet, an impossibility as Mom Nature does whatever she wants to do on any given day.

More realistically speaking, governments as well as individuals need to truly evaluate the risks of living in an area that is suspect for natural events such as a hurricane. For the individual it should be an easy decision to make... live with the threat of property destroying storms or don't.

For the governments, which are supposed to be represented by the citizens in potentially affected areas, perhaps a bit more difficult. But efforts could start by imposing zoning and building ordinances that are designed to stand the test of the most catastrophic sort of hurricane, for instance. Of course this would lead to greater expenses for all individuals pondering the decision to live in those locations (or invest or build or do business there), but that alone would take care of the 'poor people' alluded to earlier. They simply wouldn't be able to reside in an area they couldn't afford. They would reside in areas that are affordable to them further away from the greatest threat of devastation (based on the best evaluations of risk).

Bottom line, the government should be more concerned protecting rights rather than perhaps poor decision making. The individual should know the rules as well as the risks and choose accordingly... and take responsibility.

I'll make one very bold prediction... there won't be any hurricanes in Arizona this year.

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