Habitat for Humanity Set to Repair Some Chinese Drywall Homes in New Orleans

At least 70 Habitat for Humanity homes in New Orleans are slated to be gutted because they were built with defective Chinese drywall. According to a ProPublica report, Habitat is still running tests on more than 300 homes the group built in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, so the number of homes scheduled for remediation could climb.

Earlier this year, the Sarasota-Herald Tribune, in cooperation with ProPublica, reported that Habitat built more than 200 homes with Chinese drywall in the hurricane-ravaged city and then ignored homeowners’ complaints about it. Most of the Habitat houses raising concerns are located in the Musicians Village, a development built to help bring musicians back to the city after the hurricane. Some homeowners complained of problems that have been linked to the tainted drywall, including failed appliances and electronics to corroded metals and jewelry, as well as respiratory and other health issues possibly linked to drywall fumes.

For its part, Habitat denied that Chinese drywall was causing problems in any of its New Orleans homes. According to ProPublica, the nonprofit continued using Chinese drywall in its houses long after news of its defects had spread throughout the nation and long after most builders had stopped using it.

Habitat didn’t start testing 280 homes it believes it built with Chinese drywall until ProPublica and the Sarasota-Herald Tribune began covering homeowners’ complaints.

Now ProPublica is reporting that Habitat began notifying homeowners last month that it will gut the affected homes and move the residents into apartment complexes where they can live rent-free until the construction is finished. Habitat will also pay to store their possessions.

At least one homeowner, however, told ProPublica that he has lost faith in Habitat and doesn’t trust its offer to remediate his home. Instead, he wants Habitat to buy it back. That individual has filed a lawsuit in Orleans Parish court, seeking to recover the $75,000 he paid for his home.

Habitat homeowners whose houses have been declared safe from drywall problems are also complaining about their treatment, ProPublica said. Some of these homeowners say air-conditioning coils and electrical sockets that were clear when Habitat inspected them in July are now turning black. So far, Habitat has not offered to re-inspect those homes.

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