LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. (AP) -- The housing slump and hurricane season could add up to more trouble for communities like Lehigh Acres, Fla.
If a hurricane hits, thousands of vacant, foreclosed-upon houses could be damaged. Not only would that diminish their value even further, but flying debris from unprotected homes could pose a threat to neighboring properties.
An Associated Press analysis confirms that some of the areas most likely to be hit by a hurricane are already suffering the most in this recession. In March, more than 280,000 homes were in foreclosure in Florida and coastal counties in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
Emergency officials say the top priority in a major storm is quick evacuation, not securing vacant homes.
Some banks have plans for protecting homes they've taken over, but not all follow through. And the rules can get murkier when properties are between owners.
The Palm Beach County commissioner has asked county attorneys to research whether it is legal to board up empty homes.