10 Years Later: Katrina’s Impact on Texas Real Estate
As the 10th anniversary of the nation's most devastating and costliest natural disaster approaches, we met with JLL's Mary Stanton to hear about her experiences with Hurricane Katrina.
Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005, forcing more than 1 million people from their homes and killing more than 1,800. Mary, now the COO of the Houston JLL office, was working as VP of property management on-site for two buildings in Downtown New Orleans totaling 1M SF when the disaster occurred. As part of the response and relief effort, she and her chief engineer came to Houston to get a JLL emergency response team together and go back into the devastated area and rebuild. One of the major impacts across Texas was handling the displaced residents and evacuees. When Hurricane Rita hit right on the heels of Katrina, it created more chaos, but the City of Houston figured out where to put the influx of people. Pictured here are Hurricane Katrina survivors as they arrive at the Houston Astrodome Red Cross Shelter after being evacuated from New Orleans when the Superdome (in New Orleans) became unsafe following the levee breaks.
Mary, in the forefront, says the biggest impact she saw to the commercial real estate community was the immediate need for office space. Companies and universities, like Tulane, all needed temporary space to set up satellite offices. If anything, the storm damage increased the demand, even if those companies were only leasing temporarily. Several companies that relocated said they liked the Houston business environment and decided to stay, and in some cases even expand their presence. (When this owner the firm worked with decided to invest in Houston, he gave JLL a 200k SF assignment because of his positive experience with the firm, she says.)
Mary snapped this photo of her front yard in New Orleans in the Katrina aftermath. She tells us the memories of Katrina and the devastation still give her chills. But, she recalls how well JLL treated its employees and she’s still grateful that she was—and still is—part of a wonderful company that cares. On day one, JLL leadership located every JLL employee, sent money for living expenses and told them not to worry about their jobs, she tells us. The firm hosted conference calls for all affected employees every day at 10am and 2pm with the CEO, national head of property management and HR all on the phone to discuss building and personal issues. The two buildings Mary managed, on Poydras Street, were the first buildings in the city back on line, allowing JLL to increase occupancy into the 90% range because of its speedy return to business.
Refugees didn’t limit themselves to Houston and South Texas, people from all walks of life found their way to North Texas, as well, with some 66,000 evacuees staying in DFW-area shelters and motels immediately after the storm, according to a 2009 Dallas Morning News article. Many stayed and started new lives and businesses in the Metroplex, as well. The Preston Hollow/North Dallas Advocate shares some of those stories here.
Hurricane Katrina Facts
According to US Housing and Urban Development info, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita caused $150B in total estimated damages with 1 million damaged homes and more than 80% of New Orleans was under water. Some $20B in HUD support was issued for long-term disaster recovery through Community Development Block Grants. The CDBG disaster recovery program allocated its funds across Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and Florida. This funding contributed to long-term recovery of the region’s housing stock, economy and infrastructure, with more than $14B in HUD recovery funds supporting state-run housing programs and another $1.6B was allotted to replace/improve streets, utilities, sewer lines, schools, hospitals, dikes and dams. For example, the State of Louisiana used HUD investments to construct or rehabilitate 11 higher education facilities; 13 healthcare facilities including the redevelopment of former Charity, Methodist and VA Hospitals in New Orleans; 20 parks and recreational facilities; 52 water and sewer projects; and 22 fisheries in nine coastal parishes.