(WSVN) - Residents in North Miami Beach were forced to leave their condo building months ago due to unsafe conditions. Tonight, they are still waiting to return, and some say they are not getting the help they were promised. 7’s Kevin Ozebek investigates.
The past few months have been filled with stress and anxiety for Carmen Bethel.
Carmen Bethel: “Like someone just grabbed you from inside and is holding you tight, and you can’t breathe.”
She and her family have spent the last three months away from their North Miami Beach condo.
They were among the 300 families forced to evacuate their homes at Crestview Towers on July 2.
Carmen Bethel: “It was mayhem, because everybody was in and out of the elevator, with police officers escorting and telling us to hurry. It was something I’ll never forget.”
Beatriz Isaza only had 15 minutes to pack a bag for herself and her baby when the police came knocking.
Beatriz Isaza: “As soon as I got out, they put a tape on the door, and I couldn’t get in anymore. It was very scary, because I didn’t have nowhere to go.”
Crestview Towers was shut down by the city after an engineering report deemed the building structurally and electrically unsafe. It was also nine years overdue for its 40-year recertification.
Charities offered housing assistance to the residents.
Beatriz was grateful for the help but she says she was unable to use it.
Beatriz Isaza: “The market is so high; Miami is super hard to get an apartment. I couldn’t get anything for what they wanted me to get.”
Camillus House tells 7News it “placed 38 households in hotels” and will “help those same households locate new homes … and provide move-in assistance.”
Beatriz says she qualified for a housing voucher from Camillus House that would pay for an apartment … as long as it was no more than $1,600 a month.
Beatriz Isaza: “When I presented an offer, probably 10 more people presented another offer.”
Beatriz found an apartment on her own. It’s $400 more than the rental assistance she qualified for. Twice as much as her mortgage and fees she still has to pay for her Crestview condo.
Beatriz Isaza: “I have my savings. That’s it. Once that runs out, I don’t know.”
The City of North Miami Beach launched a GoFundMe page to raise $500,000 for residents’ relocation expenses.
Less than $5,000 was donated.
Beatriz Isaza: “I don’t see anyone really making an effort to have people come and donate, because we really need that donation.”
After the evacuation, one owner filed a lawsuit against the Crestview Towers Condominium Association. It says residents had already been paying a special assessment since April 2019 to repair issues like “wall cracks,” “painting and window improvement” and to “fix the generator.”
Carmen Bethel: “So the money allotted, where did it go? What did it go towards? Because we don’t see that it went towards anything.”
We reached out to the law firm representing the association. It tells 7News, “Some permits have already been pulled, and we have been advised that the main permit outstanding will be pulled shortly.”
It goes on to say, “The funds necessary for building repairs will ultimately come from the membership of the Association through assessments. However, the Association is exploring the possibility of borrowing funds to ease the financial burden on the membership.”
Carmen Bethel: “All the money we’ve given, and now we’re going to have to reassess everything. Where are we gonna get that from right now, especially with these hard times?”
And no one can say when the hard times will be over for these residents.
Homeowners’ insurance can help condo owners forced out of their homes due to mandatory evacuations. Policyholders can check to see if they have loss of use or additional living expenses coverage.
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