LIVINGSTON, La. (WAFB) - A packed town hall took place in Livingston Parish on Monday, May 3, with a lot of folks out there just furious that they may have to make even more upgrades to their homes following the 2016 flood.
This comes after parish leaders apparently dropped the ball to meet requirements for the National Flood Insurance Program back then.
“I’m just telling you straight up, you can’t play these kinds of games with people’s lives,” said one resident. “You cannot.”
More than 1,200 property owners received a letter from the Livingston Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness alerting them they would have to make costly fixes to their homes or businesses to lift them away from any potential floods after the parish failed to survey their flood-damaged properties after 2016.
Only properties that received substantial damage from the August 2016 flood are having to make the fix, which means costs that were more than 50% of the property’s value. It only applies to properties in flood zones prior to the 2016 flood.
“Because if we spend all this money to raise our homes, I mean, it’s going to happen again and I don’t want to see that for this parish,” said Elizabeth Gillen, another Livingston Parish resident.
Gillen is one of many upset Livingston Parish residents who received a letter from the Livingston Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness indicating they need to elevate their homes in order to meet federal flood standards following the 2016 flood.
“To see us spend even more money after we’ve already re-done the whole thing, it hurts my heart that my kids have to keep living through that,” Gillen added.
According to the federal government, the parish fell short in how it responded to the 2016 flood, meaning the parish did not assess hundreds of homes to make sure they were rebuilding according to Federal Flood Protection guidelines.
Now, these families were told they must make more changes or even accept buyouts. FEMA will reimburse additional repairs, like raising a home, up to 75%. But that is just not enough for some families.
“I actually just bought this house two years ago and it’s very frustrating that these letters are just now being sent out and were not sent out when they were supposed to in 2016,” said Taylor Hamed, a Livingston Parish resident. “And now, I’m having to fork out the 25% to pay for the rest of it.”
Livingston Parish Assessor Jeff Taylor is urging any affected families to call their insurance agent and try to find out what the replacement costs on their houses were in 2015 and 2016.
“Absolutely go and make sure that your insurance on the replacement cost part A is what you want to look at,” said Taylor. “And if it comes up to a certain number and the amount of money is less than half of that number, then you should be taken out of the program.”
Parish leaders also told homeowners they should only be on FEMA’s radar if their home met certain criteria. Otherwise, homeowners should not have to rebuild.
“You have to be in a flood zone, you have to be below base flood elevation, and you have to have sustained 50% or more in damage, as compared to the value of the structure alone - not the whole property but just the structure,” said Brandi Janes, director of Livingston Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
Everyone is just hopeful that these conversations continue and there will be more meetings in the future with more parish officials involved.
East Baton Rouge Parish received a similar notice about some flooded homes from FEMA. The mayor’s office said it did not send letters to homeowners and instead, officials are reaching out to congressional leaders for help resolving the issue.
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