Rebuild Florida: Tampa Bay veteran says state won’t replace shed, carport they must demolish to replace Irma-damaged home

8 On Your Side

Rebuild Florida says it must demolish 2 structures mandated by veteran's community

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The saga continues for Floridians waiting for the state to repair homes damaged by Hurricane Irma, a storm that hit in 2017.  

For one Tampa Bay area veteran, the situation is growing more dire by the minute.

“The temperature here is 96,” said 74-year-old Gary McMaken.

Shortly after noon in Lakeland, Gary McMaken’s shirt was already soaked in sweat as he showed 8 On Your Side what Hurricane Irma has done to his manufactured home.

“It has gotten as high as 105 and it’s just unbearable,” he said.

The home’s subflooring is collapsing so the ground literally shifts as you walk.

“It’s all caved in, all the way back,” McMaken said.

There are buckets in most rooms for the rain. Throughout the entire home, there’s an overwhelming stench.

“I’ve got this hoarseness and I think it’s probably because of mold in the walls and ceiling,” McMaken said. “Can’t sleep and it is just awful.”

The state has received hundreds of millions of dollars to help storm victims recover.

McMaken applied to Rebuild Florida in early 2019. The state determined his home qualifies for replacement.

Despite news conferences highlighting Rebuild Florida’s overall accomplishments, 8 On Your Side has uncovered that McMaken and many other individual claimants are still waiting for help.

McMaken says even when his new home arrives, the nightmare won’t be over.

“It seems like it’s just been set up for failure,” he said.

The state says they must demolish McMaken’s carport and shed, and they can’t pay to have these structures replaced. But a carport and shed are mandatory in many communities, including the one he lives in.

“I have no income…except for social security, no savings,” McMaken said. “So basically they’re giving me a home that I won’t be able to utilize.”

McMaken must come up with thousands of dollars or face eviction. The state says installing a shed and carport would violate federal regulations.

McMaken says the program is putting people in a lose-lose situation: they’re demolishing all of his house and building back just some of it. He says he hopes the state finds a way to help storm victims recover faster and recover fully.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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