In March, Alfreda Hamilton returned home to her apartment of 15 years in Central Park Apartments. A year and a half earlier, she was forced out because of water damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.

When she returned, rent for her unit had increased by about $200 per month.

“With everything that they did to it, I’m sure that it was necessary,” Hamilton said. “It’s within reason of what the other apartments are charging.”

As apartment owners renovate their units after the hurricane, prices are driven up, said Jim Gaines, an economist at the Texas A&M University Real Estate Center – not to mention displacement that increases demand.

“The demand pushed up the rental rates,” he said. “The rents are going to go up any way you work it.”

Two years after the hurricane, demand is still high.

Nancy Garner, who owns Woolson Real Estate, said 288 of the more than 700 units she manages in Victoria are not yet back online.

Hamilton’s unit was one of about 500 apartments owned by Garner that were damaged badly enough by the hurricane that tenants had to move.

Across Victoria, more than 30% of apartments were damaged by the hurricane.

Hamilton said she could afford the increase, but she knows that isn’t the case for everyone affected by the storm.

Garner said rent prices on the units that were updated after Hurricane Harvey increased between 10% and 30% across the six multifamily properties she manages.

“Market conditions would have caused any changes in pricing on those properties” rather than renovations, Garner said.

Demand may decrease after apartment owners get the money to finish reconstruction and put their units back online.

Two years after Hurricane Harvey struck Victoria, some owners are still working with their insurance companies to make settlements.

Claude Raffin, who owns the Villas Apartments north of the Victoria Mall, hired a lawyer and is working on reaching a settlement with his insurance company. In the meantime, only about 10 of the 85 units at his complex are occupied.

Garner settled with her insurance company about a year ago.

She said the process has taken so long in part because, even after settling, she lost money.

“We received $45 million, and we spent a considerable amount more than that,” Garner said.

“I wish we would’ve received all of what the damage was. There are policy limits and sublimits and different types of coverage within your coverage. Those were hard things to learn. You’re fighting. It’s a little bit of a David and Goliath thing.”

Morgan is the business reporter for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at (361) 580-6328, mohanlon@vicad.com or @mcohanlon.

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