GALVESTON, Texas - Hours after Tropical Storm Cindy made landfall, an apartment complex opened in Galveston, with many of its units now home to victims of Hurricane Ike.
After water from Hurricane Ike flooded the island’s north side in 2008, families living at the Cedar Terrace and Magnolia Homes public housing properties got housing vouchers, but some couldn’t find a place on the island and had to move elsewhere.
The project comes after years of controversy over replacing public housing damaged by Ike, including loud opposition from some citizens and even elected officials. At one point, it was a defining issue in city elections.
Either way, developers say 49 families left by Ike have returned, and more are on the way.
After years of moving around and waiting, then watching Cindy blow through, Lisa Alcorn finally has a permanent place for her and her 14-year-old grandson to call home.
“Totally, totally different from where I was living before,” said Alcorn, who says she on disability.
Now her apartment near downtown Galveston is full of new appliances and old pictures salvaged from her old home after it was devastated by Hurricane Ike.
“You save up, then you’re able to get out,” said Alcorn, who was also getting public housing assistance during that time. “But Ike came and changed all of that.”
Now, a new beginning for Alcorn and dozens of other Ike victims living at the Cedars at Carver Park and nearby Villas on the Strand.
The two mixed-income complexes have a total of 282 units. Roughly half of those are being rented at market rate and open to anyone.
Louis Bernardy, Senior Vice President & Texas Director of Development for McCormack Baron Salazar, the project developer, says the other roughly half are “reserved for former public housing residents. After the hurricane, they had priority to return.”
Bernardy says both types of apartments are mixed together under the same roof and look the same, complete with new appliances, washer-dryers, and amenities like a gym and pool.
On Monday, a who’s who of state and local leaders cut the ribbon as the last building was finished.
“We hope to deliver hundreds of more units,” said Commissioner George P. Bush of the Texas General Land Office. “Based on the brief that I received this morning, there’s a huge market demand for a product like this.”
Commissioner Bush he hopes to have two more replacement complexes built in Galveston to meet requirements and says there are also requirements in Houston to finish, too.
The big question now is whether Congress will keep the Community Development Block Grants in their upcoming federal budget. Those federal housing grants paid for most of these two projects.
For now, these new units represent a second chance after a once-in-a-lifetime storm, and after years of uncertainty, a place for Alcorn to finally relax and call home.
“Now I’m grounded, and I’m stationed, and I love where I’m at,” Alcorn said. “I’m grateful to God that people came back and they provided something beautiful for us to come back to.”