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$11M in additional post-Hurricane Laura funding will go toward new Lake Charles housing program

Buildings and homes were damaged after Hurricane Laura made landfall near Lake Charles, La., on Thursday.
David J. Phillip
Buildings and homes were damaged after Hurricane Laura made landfall near Lake Charles, La., on Thursday.

More than a year later, some Lake Charles residents could see repairs made to their Laura- and Delta-damaged homes as officials roll out a new $11.3 million housing program, according to an announcement Monday.

Gov. John Bel Edwards and Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter announced the $11.3 million housing repair and rehabilitation program for victims of Hurricane Laura and other 2020 natural disasters. The money will pay for home rehabilitation for low- to moderate-income families with grants capped at $50,000 per household.

The program also sets aside $1 million for landlords who rebuild housing for low- and moderate-income renters.

“The housing situation in Lake Charles is dire,” Hunter said at a Monday press conference announcing the program. “This is going to help.”

The program taps into a variety of funding sources made available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and illustrates the creative means state and local officials have undertaken to accelerate recovery in the region that has yet to receive more conventional federal disaster aid.

“I know that the people of Lake Charles, having endured one disaster after another, are tired,” Edwards said. “It’s good to be able to announce something positive today and to recommit to getting the additional assistance that they need … This should be a signal of hope, and not construed as ‘mission accomplished’ because that certainly is not the case.”

The program primarily utilizes HUD’s Community Development Block Grants and HOME Program. Funds from both programs are typically devoted to meeting low- and moderate-income families’ housing needs outside of natural disaster scenarios, but in several meetings with HUD officials, state and local representatives have requested that the federal agency issue new regulations that allow the funds to be used for disaster relief.

Of the $11.3 million dollars available for the program, $5.3 million in Community Development Block Grants and $3 million in HOME funds will come from HUD via the Louisiana Office for Community Development and the Louisiana Housing Corporation. Lake Charles has committed $1.3 million of its Community Development Block Grants and $700,000 of its HOME funds.

The Louisiana Housing Corporation will contribute an additional $1 million from the National Home Trust Fund program.

The new program will be administered by the city of Lake Charles, and state and city officials expect it to be up and running before another, larger tranche of federal aid arrives next year, though they did not give an exact date of when it would be available.

Last month, the federal government passed a spending bill that included billions of dollars in supplemental disaster aid, including $595 million for victims of 2020 natural disasters in Louisiana. The announcement came more than a year after southwest Louisiana was devastated by Hurricanes Laura and Delta.

Officials at the state and local level panned that allocation as “too little, too late,” for a region with more than $3 billion in unmet needs following four federally declared natural disasters in less than a year.

Paul Braun was WRKF's Capitol Access reporter, from 2019 through 2023.