9/29 article update: Gov. Edwards Authorizes Hiring More Home Inspectors
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Office of Community Development says adjustments are underway to help the Restore Louisiana program absorb the impact from this month’s devastating storms in Texas and Florida.
At the task force meeting held in Abbeville on Friday, Sept. 22, OCD Executive Director Pat Forbes said hurricanes Harvey and Irma have depleted by nearly half the number of qualified damage inspectors who have been working in Louisiana since the floods of March and August 2016.
Forbes says the reduced number, along with the strain on other resources, will slow down the pace of inspecting flood-damaged homes in Louisiana, though the changes underway will help.
“We’re talking with HUD and reexamining our policies, procedures and processes, and working with contractors to make sure we take advantage of every opportunity to streamline our processes,” he said. “Some of these tweaks might set us back a bit to implement something that might ultimately speed things up.”
Forbes said the adjustments under consideration include the way inspectors are compensated and trained, and seeking alternative approaches to inspections, among other measures.
He also said the adjustments will not affect the amount of assistance that eligible homeowners receive through Restore Louisiana.
Meanwhile, OCD made several updates for task force members on the homeowner assistance program:
- More than 44,000 homeowners have completed and submitted the survey
- More than 36,500 qualify for one of the six program phases
- Over 28,000 environmental reviews have been completed, or 76 percent of all six phases
- Approximately 14,000 homeowners have been invited to complete the application, about 8,500 of whom have submitted
- More than 4,000 damage assessments have been performed
- Nearly 600 homeowners have received grant award notices totaling $18 million
As of mid-September, the small business assistance program received 184 loan applications from flood-impacted business owners. Of those, 105 have completed their applications and nine loans have been approved so far.
Key changes are being made to the small business component. Pending HUD approval next week, the range of borrowing amounts will be $10,000-$150,000. Oct. 31 is the new extended deadline to apply for the program. In addition, other adjustments are being made to streamline the underwriting process.
Restore Louisiana includes two programs designed to increase the stock of available, affordable rental housing severely damaged in the 2016 floods. One of those ‒ the Neighborhood Landlord Program ‒ so far has committed to loaning a total of $39.4 million in construction projects. In addition, deadlines for both programs have been extended to Sept. 30 based on interest expressed from developers.
OCD and task force members reminded flood-impacted homeowners to complete the program survey, which is the first step in requesting help through Restore Louisiana, regardless of whether they believe they qualify.
The survey is available online at restore.la.gov, by telephone at (866) 735-2001 or by visiting one of the Restore Louisiana housing assistance centers in Lafayette, Hammond, Monroe and Baton Rouge.
Last modified: October 2, 2017