Thousands of Hurricane Ian survivors may be priced out of rebuilding if zoning laws change
Tom Lands feels he was one of the lucky ones on San Carlos Island but weeps for his neighbors that he shared a special bond for nearly 10 years who lost everything they owned following Hurricane Ian. Now he worries survivors can’t afford to rebuild.
SAN CARLOS ISLAND, Fla. – San Carlos Island was a living man's island. You didn't have to have a mega income to survive.
But Hurricane Ian did not care who you were or how much money you made. The catastrophic storm did not discriminate, washing ashore feelings of anxiety, stress and worry about what the next steps will be for the millions of survivors in its wake.
Tom Lands feels he was one of the lucky ones but weeps for his neighbors that he shared a special bond for nearly 10 years.
"This wasn’t my primary home, but for so many of my friends it was. It's all gone," he said.
Lands and his wife bought a manufactured home on the island in 2014 as a retreat to sunny Florida from the cold winter months in Tinley Park, Illinois.
In 2018, they had a new trailer home built and installed on the lot where their daughter would live up until Ian decimated the more than $200,000 property investment.
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"It's horrible when you're in Illinois, and you're watching the national news, and you see your house. It's horrible," said Lisa Lands as she watched Ian tatter the Fort Myers area last week.
The Lands describe San Carlos Island as the working island for shrimpers and fishermen.
"It wasn't the millionaire's island. It was the people's island. These people can't afford to rebuild," she said.
Tom Lands believes his community will be priced out of island if the government changes the building standards to no longer allow manufactured homes in Zone A.
"Which is real disheartening because that means there's thousands and thousands of people that are going to be priced out of affordable living on San Carlos Island," he said.
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The Lands pulled up to witness the damage for the first time on Friday bringing a trailer full of aid for their community affected by the natural disaster. They were greeted by an outcry of thank you’s.
And with search and rescue operations still ongoing on the barrier islands, many residents still can't get back to what's left of their homes and belongings.
"They need more help," said Tom Lands speaking on behalf of the thousands of Floridans in need of prayers, hope and volunteerism.
But most of all, they need support in their long path ahead.