The Miami Herald

Financial help for homeowners with defective drywall remains elusive

The Federal Emergency Management Agency this week turned down a request from Gov. Charlie Crist to consider the outfall of defective drywall a disaster worthy of federal help.

The decision is the latest in a series of letdowns for homeowners with faulty wallboard, which emits sulfuric compounds that corrodes copper in appliances and wiring, blackens jewelry and other metals and are is suspected as the cause of breathing problems and headaches for some homeowners.

Some homeowners, who number in the thousands nationwide but are concentrated in Florida and Louisiana, have been dropped by their home insurance companies when they tried to make damage claims. Others have moved out of their homes and are juggling mortgage and rent payments. No government agency has approved a method of rehabilitating affected homes.

Lawsuits seeking damages from drywall manufacturers, builders, suppliers and others are still inching their way through the courts.

In addition, requests that Crist declare the issue a disaster using an executive order have been ignored, so far.

His office did not return phone calls Friday.

FEMA turned down Crist's request because the issue "does not constitute an emergency or major disaster incident." "No one's being held accountable but me," said Boynton Beach homeowner Joe Grote, who moved into his home 2½ years ago and continues to bear its smell. ‘‘I'm being held accountable to the bank."

One tangible solution for some homeowners is money from their local government for repairs through the federal Community Development Block Program.

The city of Miramar said this week it they will make about $1.5 million from this program available to homeowners who need to repair their homes because of faulty drywall or other problems.

But the money is available for low-income households. Many of the homes affected by defective drywall are larger new homes built during the housing boom in gated communities.

For information about the assistance Miramar is offering, go to www.crafla.com and click on the city of Miramar or call 954-431-7866 and choose option three.




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