No Vacancies Here - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

No Vacancies Here

February 5, 2006
Reported by Mika Highsmith

Lake Charles Property Management Owner, Melba Higginbotham says, "We filled all of our vacancies with Katrina evacuees." A nightmare that's become even more frightening after Rita, showing no signs of hope. Higginbotham says, "They're no vacancies anywhere." Making Melba Higginbotham's job as owner of Lake Charles Property Management both difficult and emotional. Higginbotham says, "During the storm my phone at home would start ringing at like 6 in the morning from people looking for housing. During the day in the office it's so hard that we take turns crying, because we can't do anything for them."

1200 units are down due to storm damage and closed indefinitely, knocking out many potential apartments. Higginbotham says, "That's just those registered with the apartment association, they're a lot more damaged apartments city wide."

To make matters worse, with insurance increases, and repair cost, those who do luck up somehow and find an apartment will pay more in rent. Higginbotham says, "One property owners premium went from $60, 000 to $100,000 a year. So she has to get an extra $5,000 a month just to pay her insurance. Then of course the insurance didn't necessarily cover all the repairs. Most apartment owners have had a lot of extra expenses. Higginbotham says, "It's not going to get any better anytime soon. It's just not going to happen. We knew this from day one, and I worked with the Mayor on it. We knew that the problem was coming, and that's why he's been trying to get the trailers in as quickly. That's going to be the answer, we can't rely on apartment living."

Higginbotham says over a 100 apartments with rent based on income, are under construction in Sulphur. However there's no word as to when they'll be completed.

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