Hurricane Ike whirled into the Gulf Coast this weekend, bringing rain and winds that resulted in as much as $16 billion worth of damage in Texas alone, according to some reports.
Among the hardest hit was Galveston, Texas, where Ike made landfall. Houston, also in the path of the storm, appears to have been spared Ike's wrath, according to a New York Times story: "Initial reports from residential neighborhoods around Houston suggested that flooding and property damage were not as serious as some had feared early in the morning after hearing reports from downtown, where windows were shattered on skyscrapers and hotels."
New-home communities appear to have escaped major damage. "So far, no builder is reporting meaningful damage to nearly-finished inventory," Wachovia housing analyst Carl Reichardt noted in a report released Monday. "Much of the damaged/flooded areas seem to be to the south of the city, whereas concentration of new single-family tracts has tended to be to the north and west of the central business district, areas that seem to have been spared the worst of Ike."
Natalie Harris, vice president of marketing at Houston-based David Weekley Homes, shared similar information. "We're currently assessing our neighborhoods today and tomorrow--pretty much all of the Houston area was impacted in some form or fashion, so we'll see what tomorrow brings," she told BUILDER via e-mail Sunday. "Our corporate office sustained some roof damage and water damage and still has no power. As of now, we will be closed on Mon., Sept. 15 and will re-group tomorrow afternoon to determine how we get back up and running."
Still, Ike could affect Houston's new home market in the months to come, suggested Reichardt, particularly for public firms Meritage Corp. and Beazer Homes. "Even though new construction has been slowing for some time in Houston (YTD, single-family permits are down 29% from 2007), Houston has been one of the nation's better relative markets given the strength in the energy-based economy and relatively inexpensive housing costs, so a temporary slowdown in the market may be somewhat more significant to builder performance than we'd otherwise expect in a normal market," he said.
In terms of existing homes, HUD has announced it will temporarily stop foreclosure proceedings on FHA mortgages on homes in places that have been declared federal disaster areas. "Hurricane Ike cut a wide path across Louisiana and Texas, and possibly uprooted many families," HUD Secretary Steve Preston said today. "FHA's foreclosure moratorium will give these families the breathing room they need to put their lives back together without worrying about the prospect of losing their homes."
The private sector also is helping people and places affected by Ike. The Home Depot said it would donate a total of $1 million in cash and materials to organizations such as the American Red Cross, the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC), and local volunteer efforts for immediate aid, clean-up, and rebuilding work.
Alison Rice is senior editor, online, at BUILDER magazine.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Houston, TX.