FEMA grants pay to raise 79 Terrebonne homes

The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded two grants to Terrebonne Parish to raise 79 homes that have flooded at least twice in order to keep them from ever flooding again.

The FEMA grants, totaling $10.1 million dollars, are part of FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance program. The idea is that a dollar spent now to raise the homes will save two if the area suffers a major flood in the future.

In order for a homeowner to qualify, their home has to have flooded twice, said Jennifer Gerbasi, Recovery Planner for Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government.

“They’re repetitive loss properties,” Gerbasi said. “So we know they’re going to flood again.”

The first of the two grants offers $2.8 million to raise 23 storm-damaged homes to one foot above the 100-year flood level. That level is set by the National Flood Insurance Program maps last updated in 2008.

The second grant totals $7.3 million to pay to raise 53 homes to one foot above the 100-year flood level. Both grants only cover 72 to 75 percent of the cost to raise the house. The homeowner must pick up the tab on at least a quarter of the cost.

The homes are spread out throughout the parish, Gerbasi said.

“You have to remember that 92 percent of Terrebonne Parish is environmentally sensitive,” she explained. “The highest point in the parish is 13 feet [above sea level].”

Gerbasi said that homeowners who have flood insurance and whose homes were declared substantially damaged by TPCG can qualify for Increased Cost Compliance coverage. It covers up to $30,000 of the cost to elevate the structure and it’s how many homeowners cover the cost difference left over by the grant.

Helen Roubion, co-owner of Roubion Shoring, said the company has raised homes in Terrebonne Parish and has experience with the HMA program.

Roubion explained that the costs to raise a home vary greatly. Some homes can’t be raised at all. Each house is unique and only an estimate from a contractor can give homeowners an idea of the costs to raise their homes.

Roubion warned that the process from application for the grant to actual work being done can take up to a year.

Lists of homes eligible for the grants are provided to TPCG’s Recovery Assistance & Mitigation Planning department by FEMA and the parish reaches out to their owners to ask them to participate. Unfortunately, few who are eligible actually take advantage of the federal subsidy.

Gerbasi said only four out of the 100 homeowners who were invited this year to take part in the program actually have so far.

Despite that, Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet said that the parish has elevated more than 1,000 homes through the program since he took office in 2007.

“We believe that the elevation of structures, homes and businesses in Terrebonne Parish is one of the largest elevation programs in the world,” said U.S. Rep. Garret Graves.

Homeowners who are interested in applying for the grant can call 873-6565 or visit the following webpage: http://www.tpcg.org/index.php?f=flooding&p=hmgp_grant. •