Giving Compass' Take:
- Brett Marsh discusses how Florida's affordable housing crisis has made it difficult for victims of natural disasters to rebuild their lives.
- Which groups are most adversely impacted by these two crises? What systemic change needs to take place to make housing affordable for everyone?
- Learn more about affordable housing progress after disasters.
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When Hurricane Ian hit Central Florida last fall, Milly Santiago already knew what it was like to lose everything to a hurricane, to leave your home, to start over.
For her, that was the outcome of Hurricane Maria, which struck her native Puerto Rico in September 2017, killing thousands of residents and leaving the main island without power for nearly a year.
So in September 2022, nearly five years to the day when Maria tossed her life apart, Santiago was in suburban Orlando, visiting a friend. As torrents of heavy rain battered the roof of her friend’s home, and muddy waters flooded the streets, she realized they were trapped.
And that her life was going to change, again.
“It created such a brutal anxiety in me that I don’t even know how to explain,” she said in Spanish.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Santiago was one of more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans who left Puerto Rico and relocated to places like Florida, seeking safety, economic opportunities, and a place to rebuild their lives. Only now, with displacement caused by Hurricane Ian, as well as one of the worst housing crises in the country, the stability for Puerto Ricans in hurricane-battered Florida has never felt more at risk. With those like Santiago twice displaced, many are finding their resilience and sense of home tested like never before.
Santiago’s life right before Maria was based in Canóvanas, a town on the outskirts of Puerto Rico’s capital of San Juan. There, she lived with her teenage daughter and son. Hurricane Irma visited first, grazing the United States territory in early September and causing widespread blackouts. When Hurricane Maria hit on September 20, it ultimately took the lives of more than 4,000 Puerto Ricans, making it the most devastating tropical storm to ever hit the region. It would take 11 months for power to be fully restored to Puerto Rico’s main island, home to the majority of the territory’s population of just over 3 million.
Read the full article about affordable housing and natural disasters by Brett Marsh at Grist.