As a candidate for one of the boards that governs Harvard, Leonard Miller '55 is packaging himself as a housing magnate whose expertise can help the University fight homelessness and urban decay.
"I would like to help Harvard use its leadership and research capabilities to reshape and define the future the future of our cities, and thus to improve the quality of life in America," Miller said in the statement sent out to the Harvard graduates who elect members of the Board of Overseers. The board is charged with approving or rejecting major decisions made by the university.
But the experience of hundreds of families in southern Florida contradicts the image Miller projects. They have accused Lennar Corporation, which he founded and now chairs, of building substandard homes too weak to withstand the battering of Hurricane Andrew.
Andrew's 120 mile-per-hour winds ripped large sections out of the roofs of many Lennar-built homes, leaving their interiors exposed to driving rains.
A group of homeowners decided to sue the corporation, one of the nation's largest homebuilders, despite Lennar officials' claims that their houses were built to standard.
The company upholds its claim, even though it settled out of court in 1993 at a cost of $2.4 million.
Carpenters and Lawyers
The lawsuit after Hurricane Andrew was not the first legal challenge Lennar faced for allegedly shoddy construction techniques, according to the Miami Herald.
In May 1991, about 80 owners from the Hampshire Homes development in Kendall, Fla. filed suit against Lennar for failing to comply with the South Florida Building Code, which is particularly stringent because of the danger of violent storms.
The complaint alleged that Lennar used untreated wood and ungalvanized nails, bolts and screws to build one and two-story homes. Homeowners claimed that their houses were rotting because of Lennar's constriction techniques.
The Miami Herald reported that Lennar agreed to pay for porch repairs on some of the houses but declined to make other repairs, arguing that the homes were fundamentally sound.
Then, in 1992, Hurricane Andrew struck.
Attorneys for Hampshire homeowners amended their suit to include the hurricane damage and pressed on.
Five other Lennar developments were also hard hit by Andrew, and residents in those areas filed a separate suit.
They claimed that their homes