Uninsured homes would have priority
Officials in St. John the Baptist Parish are proposing to use $32.6 million in federal grant money largely to repair homes damaged by last year’s Hurricane Isaac, help with rehabilitating affordable housing units and assist low-and-moderate-income home buyers.
Another large chunk of the money would go toward repairs at two storm-battered schools.
The Parish Council plans to hold a hearing Tuesday night to gather feedback on the plan for the money, which comes from a federal Community Development Block Grant awarded through the state Office of Community Development.
The largest portion of the money, about $14 million, would go to helping 300 households pay for rehabilitating or elevating their homes, with a priority on low-and-moderate-income households who did not have flood insurance or homeowners’ insurance at the time of the storm.
Parish officials also propose using $3.6 million to provide up to $25,000 each to small-scale rental property owners, with the goal of returning about 130 units to the affordable housing market.
They plan to use another $3.3 million to provide about 60 low-interest loans to small businesses that were hard hit by Isaac.
About 7,000 homes in LaPlace flooded during the storm, and only 30 percent of the city’s 30,000 residents had flood insurance, a lack that has slowed work in some areas and left many homeowners in debt.
Business owners also felt the pinch: In a Federal Emergency Management Agency survey of more than 200 businesses in St. John, 87 reported significant damage from the storm, officials said.
About 50 businesses could receive part of about $980,000 to be set aside to help commercial business owners rehab blighted properties.
Parish President Natalie Robottom said residents reminded her of the storm’s heavy hand during an Oct. 2 public hearing on her administration’s plan for using the grant money.
“We had a number of people in the audience from River Forest and Cambridge who reminded us — and we have not lost sight of the fact — that many live in homes that are still incomplete,” Robottom said. “There’s still a great need, so we definitely need to address that.”
About $5 million of the pot has been allocated to the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board to go toward its Isaac-related repairs. School officials have pegged damages to two storm-battered schools — Lake Pontchartrain Elementary, which is expected to need complete demolition, and East St. John High — at about $65 million. FEMA has disputed this, and a gap of tens of millions of dollars exists between what the federal government has been willing to pay and what the board calculates as the actual cost of repairs.
Robottom has proposed that about $1.2 million of the money go toward parish administrative costs.
The hearing is scheduled during the Parish Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Percy Hebert Building in LaPlace.
The parish’s plans for the money must be submitted to the state by Nov. 1.