Terrebonne could get money to elevate rental properties

Terrebonne Parish could be in line to receive more than $1 million in federal funds to raise rental properties.

The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness informed the parish it has earmarked $1.6 million for use on elevating year-round, single-family rentals that have previously flooded. The money comes from FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds leftover from Hurricane Gustav.

Terrebonne Parish Recovery Planner Jessica Gerbasi said lifting houses is meant to help both owners and renters. By raising the houses, owners can see their flood insurance premiums decrease, which means they do not have to hike rental prices to offset the cost.

“With the new insurance regulations, the people who are renting single-family homes for permanent leases are seeing some significant flood insurance increases. So, if they didn’t mitigate, that would just continue to increase, and then our low-to-moderate income and workforce housing for rental would be inaccessible to them,” Gerbasi said.

The grant’s requirements mean only “repetitive loss” properties, those that have previously been flooded and lost at least 50 percent of value or 100 percent of its value in damage in multiple storms. The owner of the property will also have to match the grant’s funding by paying for 25 percent of the elevation. Gerbasi said properties used for short-term rentals, like camps or Airbnb, would not apply either.

“Tourism is a fabulous thing and we very much support tourism,” she said. “However, this is about housing and safe structures for people to live their life and go to work and school and be secure.”

Gerbasi said the parish has not officially applied for the grant yet, but was informed by the state of the leftover money available. Parish planning officials told the state they could make use of it, and received an unofficial statement from the governor’s office notifying them the money is available to them.

“We were thinking that we could get 10 houses done for that price. But that’s just a guess. We don’t know what structures we’ll have; maybe it’ll be a duplex, maybe it’ll be a 4-plex. We just want to make sure we have housing available,” Gerbasi said.

The planning department must now file an application with addresses of homes eligible for the program. According to Gerbasi, Terrebonne has more than 400 repetitive loss properties that are rentals or businesses. The staff will parse out rentals from that list and send notices alerting owners they are eligible. Priority will go to those that have suffered the most damage, flooded the most times, can be raised cost effectively and serve the most people. Those who think they are eligible can call the parish’s hazard mitigation department at 873-6565. •