Living in Limbo: Post-Flood Housing Needs

Sep 6, 2016

More than 135,000 south Louisiana households have applied for FEMA assistance, and the latest estimate of damaged homes exceeds 85,000. That was before six more parishes were added to the disaster declaration last Friday.

Hotel rooms are full; apartments are hard to find; and people are living with family and even in tents in their front yards.

“What is happening with housing, because it seems like it’s not moving very fast?” state Senator Eddie Lambert of hard-hit Ascension Parish asked Louisiana Recovery director Mark Reilly during a committee meeting late last week.

“On the manufactured housing program with FEMA, within the next couple of days, that’s really going to start ramping up and we’re going to see a whole lot more trailers come in and get on the ground,” Reilly said.

But Lambert was more interested in the “Shelter-at-Home” program.

“The state is actually funding this, correct?” Lambert asked.

“Right,” Reilly replied.

“If I can get in it for $15-thousand, then I can move back in it, correct?” Lambert asked, regarding the program which provides limited rehabbing of flood-damaged homes.

“Just to be clear, we don’t give anyone $15-thousand. We will do work in your house to make it safe and habitable, up to a cost of 1fifteen thousand,” Reilly clarified.

“So, basically the contractor does the work; the state makes the payment?” Lambert asked for verification.

Contractors have been hired by the state, Reilly said, and inspections and the work begun. But it’s a massive -- and ultimately expensive – undertaking. Still, he says, it makes the most sense. “Doing something like this, getting someone back into their house, is a lot cheaper than putting them up in hotels,  or putting a mobile home in place,” Reilly explained. “Plus – it’s a better effect on the community.”

Senator Lambert agreed, adding that he hopes the program can deliver the needed work expeditiously.

“To me it looks like the Governor’s program is the quickest way to address some of these issues.”