Are You Ready for Hurricane Season?

With hurricane season just around the corner, it is important for New Orleans residents to be prepared as possible for any of the dangerous circumstances that can occur. One obvious way of improving your house’s chances of making it through a hurricane without flood damage is to contact Acme House Raising to see what we can do for you. If your home is in an area prone to flooding, our house raising team can help protect you. Here are some other important tips to consider when considering hurricane preparation:

  • Make sure all of your important papers and documents are safe in a secure location. These may be instrumental in helping with any recovery that is necessary.
  • Obtain a working knowledge of any potentially hazardous situations around your house, such as knowing how to turn off electrical, gas and water supplies. Similarly, your home should be equipped with a fire extinguisher and all residents should be trained to use it.
  • Have emergency phone numbers readily available, such as the number for local hospitals, law enforcement or fire and rescue departments.
  • Be aware of whether or not you live in an evacuation area and if your area is susceptible to high winds and surge flooding. Have a plan of where your family can stay if you are required to evacuate.
  • Make a plan to care for the special needs of elderly or disabled people, and for any household pets.
  • Confirm that your home meets the current building codes for disaster situations, such as being able to withstand hurricane-force winds.
  • Keep landscaping and nearby trees well-maintained to reduce the chance of branches and debris being blown on or into your home.
  • Install impact-resistant windows or shutters to protect windows from flying debris.
  • In addition to a first-aid kit, prepare a basic disaster supplies kit, which should contain items such as: food, water, flashlights, tools, batteries, and hand-crank or solar-powered radios and/or cell phone chargers.

Most of all, if the time comes, make sure that keeping your family safe is your first priority. Keep gathering information as it is available via television or radio. If you have to evacuate, don’t return before the all-clear is given. When the time comes to assess damages or begin recovery, remember that Acme House Raising is here to help.

Delay in Flood Insurance Premium Increases Finally Passed

New Orleans Home Elevation

By Jordan Blum | The Advocate

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate gave final approval Thursday to an omnibus federal budget bill that also would delay flood insurance rate hikes until 2015 for some Louisiana homeowners.

The legislation will head to the desk of President Barack Obama, who already has announced his support.

The bill passed on a 72-26 vote with both Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and David Vitter, R-La., backing it.

The $1.1 trillion spending bill keeps the federal government operating, while also providing a one-year rate relief for some Louisiana property owners covered by the National Flood Insurance Program.

The one-year delay specifically impacts the 32,000 or so policyholders in Louisiana — more nationwide — who had voluntarily bought flood insurance and were later drawn into maps outlining areas that could flood, thereby dramatically increasing the cost of the policies. The bill also delays the implementation of rate hikes for some being mapped into areas now considered to have greater flood risks.

The bill does not address other NFIP premium increases or the “trigger” that automatically raises the rates, sometimes dramatically, when a property sells, at least for homes and businesses sold after July 6, 2012.

Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, originally sponsored the flood insurance language that helps some policyholders for the short term. Landrieu, who is being challenged by Cassidy in her re-election bid, led the effort for relief in the U.S. Senate.

The NFIP has been in financial distress, with a loss of nearly $25 billion, largely due to payments made after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Louisiana has nearly 500,000 flood insurance policies, and there are more than 5.5 million policyholders nationwide.

Congress in 2012 passed legislation to make the program more self-sustainable. The flood insurance rate hikes are much more expensive and onerous than many lawmakers anticipated.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., moved late Thursday to schedule an initial vote Jan. 27 to proceed on the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act.

The bill would delay by about four years the insurance hikes on primary residences — excluding properties that suffered repeated flooding — that have received “grandfathered” lower premiums. The legislation also would delay the property sale “trigger.”

The legislation does not address rate hikes for businesses, secondary vacation homes and homes that repeatedly flooded that were all grandfathered into artificially lower premiums for flood insurance before flood maps were created.

Those policyholders will see 25 percent annual premium increases over a few years.

When asked by The Associated Press, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he opposes taking up the bill in the House if it is approved by the Senate. “We’re not going to do that,” Boehner said.

Opponents of the legislation contend that it is costing taxpayers their money to subsidize flood insurance for those living in coastal areas or near bodies of water.

In a prepared statement from his office later in the day, Boehner added, “While I don’t support repealing the 2012 law, we’re listening to members and the alternative ideas they are offering on this issue. There have been ongoing discussions with members, and the House may consider changes to the law in the weeks and months ahead that both help homeowners and protect taxpayers.”

Cassidy said bipartisan support is continuing to grow in the House. “I am confident that we will see other gains in the weeks and months ahead, and that congressional leadership will see the wisdom of keeping flood insurance affordable for not just Louisiana, but all Americans,” Cassidy added.

Landrieu said, “The bipartisan coalition that supports flood insurance reform is so strong that Speaker Boehner will be hearing this train coming down the track toward him.”

She added that once passed by the Senate the legislation would remain open to “reasonable negotiations.”

The omnibus budget bill that contained the premium hike delay also had provisions to better fund port and river-dredging projects nationwide and directs increased dollars to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The legislation also requires the Corps to submit a report in 90 days propose alternatives to the Modified Charleston Method of wetlands restoration mitigation that has proven onerous for businesses and flood protection infrastructure projects alike.

The bill also includes Cassidy’s EGO Act to eliminate government funding for oil paintings of presidential cabinet members.

The measure also bans the use of federal funds for the inspecting of horsemeat for human consumption, an issue pushed by Landrieu. In essence, this effectively bans domestic horse slaughtering.

One negative for Louisiana, though, is that the bill does not include $700,000 to boost the prospects of Louisiana’s Poverty Point State Historic Site making it to the World Heritage List with other such famous sites as the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge and the Grand Canyon.

Back in 2011, the U.S. cut funding to UNESCO after Palestine was allowed to join the organization. Congress has banned U.S. funding to United Nations bodies that recognize Palestine as a state before an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is reached.

Consequently, the U.S. has not paid dues to the World Heritage Centre in Paris that is run by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Landrieu had inserted narrowly tailored language into an appropriations bill that added $700,000 only to the World Heritage Program to keep Poverty Point’s nomination from being unfairly punished, but some House Republicans refused to accept it for anti-Palestinian political reasons.

Rep. Vance McAllister, R-Swartz, said he unsuccessfully fought for the money to be added.

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne also expressed his concerns because the lack of U.S. dues could be used as an excuse to reject Poverty Point.

“We’ve always felt that if we could get that taken care of it would remove any thought of Poverty Point not being selected because of the dues not being paid,” Dardenne said. “I remain hopeful that UNESCO will judge Poverty Point on its merits.”

Proposed Changes to Road Home Policies Approved

Proposed Changes to Road Home Policies Approved - News

WWLTV David Hammer / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- The federal housing agency granted Louisiana long-awaited approval for changes to Road Home policies that should help those who encountered contractor fraud, forced mortgage payoffs and other hiccups that prevented them from completing repairs to their Katrina-damaged houses.

WWL-TV reported in May that a year after promising to do so, the state and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development had not yet released money to help still-struggling homeowners finish their repairs. Shortly after that, the state submitted proposed policy changes – changes that were accepted Wednesday by HUD, according to the state Office of Community Development.

That approval could be a major benefit for some of the people described in another WWL-TV story last week – homeowners who got letters telling them they owed money back to the state.

The Office of Community Develpment said it would start sending letters Aug. 26 to homeowners who are not in compliance with covenants that required them to rebuild and reoccupy their homes.

"In either case, our staff can work with the homeowners to determine if they qualify for any of these additional tools and what their best path to compliance will be," Forbes added. "The important thing is for the homeowner to touch base with the program staff."

Action Plan Amendment 58, the first of three amendments accepted by HUD, says that homeowners can have their default balances reduced if they can document losses from contractor fraud, forced mortgage payoffs, vandalism or other subsequent damage to the home or from the installation of contaminated drywall.

Action Plan Amendment 59 allows homeowners to get additional grants to pay the principal balance of construction loans if they submit to monitoring by the program. The state is partnering with lenders and the loans will be available to cover any losses confirmed under Action Plan Amendment 58.

And Action Plan Amendment 60 allows homeowners who owe money back to the state to subtract any of the $30,000 elevation incentive grant that they might have used on home repairs instead of on lifting the house.

This could help people like Charles and Cynthia Heisser of Gentilly, who have been fighting with the state's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for years because they used their initial elevation grant to fix their roof and then ran out of money to complete repairs. The Heissers, who are 81 and 79 respectively, have been living in their garage ever since.

"This sounds like really good news for us," Charles Heisser said. "If they gave us more money to complete the house, I'd definitely be willing to do that. It's been such a struggle."