Louisiana Dials Back Requirements for Elevating Homes in Flood Areas

Housing market pressures, flood insurance costs, changing FEMA maps, and improved methods of flood control are giving victims of flood damage in Louisiana mixed signals on how high they should rebuild their homes.
September 22, 2016, 7am PDT | jwilliams | @jwillia22
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Derek Bridges

As Baton Rouge dries out from its record flooding, homeowners will have a tough choice to make as they seek to rebuild. How high will they need to elevate their homes to avoid future flooding that is becoming more commonplace? David Mitchell of The Advocate reports that a variety of changes in flood insurance requirements, flood maps, and improvements in flood control are giving homeowners less incentive to raise the height of their homes, as was seen across the city of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

Area leaders around Baton Rouge already have an eye on easing the path to return. Baton Rouge and Ascension officials in recent weeks moved to loosen parish rules that had been tighter than FEMA minimum standards, set that way years ago to reap the benefit of lower flood insurance rates.

They have already eliminated requirements that homeowners build to the “record inundation,” an as yet unknown height that local officials feared could be even higher and more expensive than that required for base flood elevations.

Just last week the Metro Council in East Baton Rouge also shifted elevation requirements to the FEMA minimum by eliminating a city-parish rule that would have required some flooded properties in locations not deemed to be at highest risk to elevate. The change spares 32,000 flooded homes -- an estimated half of those that flooded in the parish -- from a possible elevation requirement.

The cost for homeowners to elevate their homes to the base flood elevation has proven costlyforcing homeowners to tear down their existing, damaged homes and just rebuild rather than elevate the existing structures. In New Orleans, a program to provide grants to homeowners to help elevate their homes has largely been sidelined, in favor of a more comprehensive response to contain and prevent future flooding.

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Published on Saturday, September 17, 2016 in The Advocate (Louisiana)
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