Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Disaster Zone

The Miami Herald profiles the economic conditions in St. Lucie County. Things are so bad the county is requesting emergency funds.

Port St. Lucie, once the fastest-growing city in the country, full of families lured by affordable dream homes, is now pockmarked by more than 10,000 properties in foreclosure and drained by a 10.5 percent unemployment rate.

The grim landscape has prompted a St. Lucie county commissioner to propose declaring a state of emergency to access the $17.5 million in county reserve funds typically earmarked for natural disasters.

The money would be used to hire local people for public-works projects already approved in hopes of curbing soaring unemployment rates and saving homes.

”I know it’s never been done before, but we have also never had an economy this bad,” Doug Coward says. The proposal is part of a larger stimulus package the commission is expected to consider within 30 days. ”We were hit with three hurricanes in 13 months, and it still didn’t destroy 10,000 homes. That was a natural disaster. This is a man-made disaster.”

It may not be the original intent of disaster-relief funds, but a foreclosed house doesn’t pay any more real estate taxes or utilities than a house that has been flattened by a hurricane, and the county needs to rebuild just the same.