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Louisiana’s roof grant program heads into second year at solid pace

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Louisiana’s roof grant program heads into second year at solid pace

Jun 13, 2024 | 7:00 am ET
By Wesley Muller
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Louisiana’s roof grant program heads into second year at solid pace
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Blue tarps cover roofs in Larose six weeks after Hurricane Ida. Louisiana’s fortified roof grant program is expected to open again in fall 2024 with a new round of money. (Photo: Wes Muller/Louiisiana Illuminator)

Louisiana’s fortified roof grant program is expected to accept applications for a second year with a new round of money to distribute this fall and at a pace exceeding that of  Alabama, where a comparable program was first launched.

State lawmakers allocated $15 million to the Louisiana Fortify Homes Program this year. The Louisiana Department of Insurance, which manages the program, plans to combine that money with funds left over from last year and open a new application round this fall, Deputy Insurance Commissioner John Parker Ford said. 

The program offers grants of up to $10,000 to eligible homeowners for new roofs built with improved techniques and materials that can stop leaks and withstand winds of up to 150 mph. Having a fortified roof can lower the risk of storm damage, leading to lower homeowner insurance costs. 

The program began last year as a response to the state’s ongoing insurance crisis. Premiums soared after the 2020 hurricane season brought five named storms to Louisiana’s coast. A dozen insurance companies covering properties in the state went bankrupt and at least 11 more stopped adding new customers. Some of the remaining insurers have hiked rates so high that residents have been forced out of their homes. 

The Fortify Homes Program began with $30 million last year, and the Louisiana Department of Insurance received a total of 3,150 roof grant applications. 

Roughly $9 million has been granted, and exactly 900 new roofs have been completed as of Wednesday. Another 187 roofs have been installed and are awaiting final inspection before the grants are paid. An additional 1,414 are at some stage of the evaluation or construction process. 

Unlike loans, grants are monetary gifts that recipients do not have to pay back. Applicants who receive the money are responsible for any roofing job costs that exceed $10,000.

Of the 3,150 grant applications, 649 either did not qualify or withdrew for some other reason. Ford said some homeowners realized they couldn’t afford the amount the grant money didn’t cover. 

Jeff Landry, Tim Temple want to put $15 million more toward homeowner roof upgrades

“Replacing a roof is just something you don’t have to do very often … so there’s probably a little bit of a sticker shock there for some folks,” Ford said. 

As a result, the program could have $5 million or more left to add to this year’s roof grant pool.  

Ford said the insurance department is working on some improvements to make the application process more equitable and trying to find nonprofits that can help homeowners who need financial assistance. 

With nearly 1,100 roofs built and an additional 1,400 pending in the first year, Louisiana’s fortified roof program is already on pace to exceed the state that came up with the idea — Alabama, which took years to reach those numbers. 

Alabama began its roof grant program in 2011 and has fortified 6,000 roofs as of May 2023, according to an Alabama Department of Insurance press release. That’s an average of about 500 per year.

To qualify for a Louisiana roof grant, homeowners have to get a state-approved evaluator to inspect their home. They must then obtain bids from at least three insurance department-approved contractors who can do the work. The department’s website lists approved evaluators and approved contractors.

For more information, contact the Louisiana Department of Insurance by calling (225) 342-5900 or visiting www.ldi.la.gov/fortifyhomes.

Correction: The amount state lawmakers allocated to the roof grant program in 2024 was $15 million, and the program is not available to business owners. A previous version of this article misstated those two points.