AUSTIN, Texas — As Texans reflect on the two-year anniversary of 2021’s deadly February freeze, there are some families who are still living with the disaster.
Many housing nonprofits and advocates tell Spectrum News 1 they know of dozens of people in Central Texas living in homes and apartments that still have storm damage from 2021. City records show there are apartment complexes with vacant units that have yet to be repaired, and that’s just the data we know.
Fran Tatu’s entire Hill Country home is a construction zone.
“The whole house is gutted,” she said.
Contractors only started working in her five-bedroom house a week ago.
“I had no idea it would take two years for me to be out of my home, so that’s been rough,” Tatu said.
A portion of Tatu’s house flooded when two pipes burst, destroying everything.
“It just went through the flooring,” she said.
In the main part of the house, her septic system flooded bedrooms, bathrooms, the living room, dining room and kitchen area. She showed us a video of the damage from 2021.
“I think I have a little bit of PTSD looking at this,” Tatu said.
Since then, Tatu has lived in vacation rentals, hotels and most recently, above her garage. She says the reason for this delay started with the insurance process.
“It took months even to get an adjuster,” Tatu said.
Then it was finding someone who could fix her damages. It took her three tries to find a contractor who could do that job. Even after that, shortages in labor and supplies delayed that work further.
“Many things are taking longer to arrive or they’re just not available,” Tatu said.
A statewide storm survey shows 31% of Texans who responded had water damage. As of March 2022, the Texas Department of Insurance reported 510,772 insurance claims and expected to pay about $11.2 billion in losses from the February freeze.
While it’s been frustrating waiting to move back home, Tatu is thankful she has a roof over our head. Others are not so fortunate.
“At the end of the day, I had a warm place to retreat to,” she said. “I’m very lucky that I have a home.”
The Austin Code Department says there are still 10 open cases from 2021. This doesn’t include vacant units that still have damages, cases unreported, cases opened later or violations re-opened under a new case number.
As Spectrum News 1 has reported, since 2021, populations most affected by storm damages are low income, communities of color, public housing and older properties.