Louisiana legislature is considering $10,000 grants for hurricane-proof roofs
There is growing momentum among Louisiana lawmakers to fund a program that would provide grants of up to $10,000 to homeowners to make their roofs hurricane-proof, which experts say is one of the long-term solutions to solving those triggered by a series State’s property insurance crisis is devastating hurricanes since 2020.
The Louisiana legislature is in the middle of a week-long special session trying to mitigate skyrocketing property insurance costs and shrinking availability, but lawmakers are limited to a single emergency bill to inject $45 million into an incentive fund to help private Attracting insurers to the market.
Republican Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon and other industry experts insist the stopgap is necessary to prevent a widespread hit to homeownership in southern Louisiana, where insurance costs exceed mortgage loans for many.
Though lawmakers appear poised to pass the special session law to attract new private insurers to begin reducing the number of homeowners entering state-sponsored Citizens, Louisiana’s insurer of last resort for those who do not have private insurance can complete, the roof grant program for homeowners, has also come under the spotlight.
In fact, Republican Rep. Jack McFarland proposed an amendment that would require all $45 million not awarded to insurance companies to be transferred to the state’s Louisiana Fortify Homes Program to provide grants for homeowners to secure their roofs receive.
McFarland withdrew the amendment after deciding it was not relevant to the law, but said House leadership had pledged to support funding for the Fortify program during the regular session, which begins April 10 .
“This program directly benefits our taxpayers and offers more of a long-term solution to our crisis,” said McFarland, chair of the House Conservative Caucus. “I think everyone agrees that this is the best plan B we have for real solutions.”
Roofs that meet or exceed the Insurance Institute’s fastening standards for businesses can withstand winds of 150 miles per hour, Donelon said.
Fastened roof standards include construction methods that literally attach roofs to the homes they protect.
“They’re the next best thing to concrete roofs and they really work,” Donelon said.
“If you save the roof, the rest of the damage in the house isn’t nearly as bad,” said Mike Huval, chairman of the House Insurance Committee, a Breaux Bridge Republican.
Discussion of the Fortify Homes program threatened to eclipse discussion of Tuesday’s special session draft in the House Appropriations Committee.
“Look, we all agree that Fortify is the way to go; we just have to decide how to get there,” said Jerome “Z” Zeringue, chairman of Appropriations, a Republican from Houma.
Alabama has had its own Fortify program for about five years, which Donelon says has given about 30,000 homeowners $10,000 in grants.
Roofs that meet Fortify standards cost about 20% more than standard roofs, which is less stressful for a new build than replacing an existing roof.
Because of this, Donelon said Alabama increased its grant limit to $10,000. He said there was little interest in Alabama’s initial $2,500 grants.
“Are we going to cap the grants or give $10,000 to motivate (homeowners)?” Donelon said.
More:Louisiana lawmakers say homeowners will be homeless unless the legislature passes incentives
More:Four things to know about Louisiana insurance crisis, special session to fix it
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1