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Displaced tornado victims have trouble finding new housing in post-pandemic era

By Marie Saavedra

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    WOODBRIDGE, Illinois (WBBM) — Blue tarps and boards cover homes in Chicago’s western suburbs. The owners were forced out while repairs are made following a tornado that ripped through the area Sunday. But repairs could take a while.

For families wanting to stay in the area, good luck finding a rental. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped create a housing shortage.

The first feeling after a storm as strong as this one is shock. Not far behind it comes feeling overwhelmed.

“You’re getting an overload of information that it’s hard to process,” said Pam Alexander, whose Woodbridge home is now uninhabitable.

She is staying with family, but she has told her insurance company that she will need a new solution.

“It’s too much of a burden to move in with family, that you need a place, but somebody should be talking to me about exactly what my needs are,” she said.

Unfortunately she and hundreds of others will have the same needs at a time when solutions are scarce. Tornado repairs rarely happen quickly, and this is a time when lumber is still extremely expensive and the inventory on building materials is not what it used to be. So the people who have to find temporary housing may end up needing it longer.

“It’s not something that you would make a snap decision on because a lot of these people I believe are going to be displaced for probably up to a year or more,” said Melissa Nowak.

Nowak lives in Woodridge and runs Ridge Realty. She said survivors will not find much in this rental market.

“Unfortunately in Woodridge there are only two rental places available,” she said. “There’s about 33 available in the five surrounding communities that I searched, but eight of them are one bedrooms, and that’s not going to work for a family.”

It also comes down to price and how much insurance companies are willing to cover.

“To rent a home in Woodridge is not cheap, and it’s not going to be the same amount as their mortgage was,” Nowak said.

Her advice is to push insurance companies for all the housing money you can, and look everywhere, including craigslist, for listings.

“Just do whatever you can to get yourself a good place because you may be there for a while,” she said.

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