LC Housing Authority finally gets insurance money year after Laura

Published 10:01 pm Wednesday, October 13, 2021

More than a year after Hurricane Laura, the Lake Charles Housing Authority has finally received insurance money and is awaiting contracts to repair three public housing units, Ben Taylor, authority director, said Wednesday.

Willow Manor, Woodway Park and Greinwich Village have all received insurance money, Taylor said. While most of the money related to mitigation costs has already been paid out, the problem lies with the pace of getting the funding to start repairs, he said. Other housing units are still waiting to receive money from insurance companies.

“You’re dealing with two slow-paying groups — FEMA and insurance companies,” Taylor said. “I just wish the process would move faster.”

At Willow Manor on Hickory Lane, $589,000 in roofing and renovation work should start soon, Taylor said. Owned and managed by the housing authority, it includes 10 duplexes, or 20 units, for the physically disabled. Six units at Willow Manor are currently occupied, with the remaining 14 gutted down to the studs, he said.

Roof installation on the 50 duplexes and single-family units at Woodway Park off East McNeese Street will cost more than $208,000, Taylor said. He said the units flooded after the historic rainfall in May.

Greinwich Village is also undergoing $469,700 in roofing repairs to 114 units, Taylor said. Currently, 34 percent of those units are occupied.

Unlike a single homeowner having a policy with one insurance company, Taylor said most housing authorities insure their units through the Louisiana Housing Council’s pool. A different insurance company will deal with different amounts in damages. Because the units in Lake Charles endured $9.3 million in damages from Hurricanes Laura and Delta, the February ice storm and the May flood, there are many insurance companies to deal with, he said.

“At each level, we have to deal with another set of adjusters,” he said.

As of Oct. 7, 157 of the 463 public housing units in Lake Charles, or 34 percent, are currently occupied, Taylor said. Prior to Hurricane Laura, 441 units, or 95 percent, were occupied.

Meanwhile, there continues to be a shortage of privately-owned Section 8 housing in Lake Charles. Before Hurricane Laura, 1,141 units were occupied. Currently, there are 828 units, but 116 or 14 percent are local residents who are under the Housing Choice Vouchers Program, but are currently living elsewhere, including out of state.

Because of a serious lack of housing after the hurricanes, Taylor said the authority amended its occupancy policy to allow for “portable vouchers” so that residents whose homes were severely damaged by the hurricanes could live in other places that satisfy certain conditions of the program.

“The person who is the furthest away is in Alaska,” he said. “There are some in California, the  Denver area, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Ohio and all throughout Texas. There are a bunch of people in the Dallas and New Orleans areas, but we haven’t heard anything on how they came out after Hurricane Ida.”

Despite being away from Lake Charles, Taylor said many residents want to come back once there is available housing. Section 8 housing units must pass inspection by the housing authority for them to be occupied, he said.

“The longer they stay away, the less of a chance that’ll happen,” he said. “The whole key is getting those units back so they can come back. If they don’t come back, I’m sure there will be other folks who qualify that will use them.”