LC Housing Rehabilitation Recovery Program: Work begins on restoring more than 200 homes
Published 12:09 pm Saturday, March 11, 2023
More than 200 Lake Charles Homes that were damaged by the natural disasters of 2020 and 2021 have entered the process of reconstruction through the Lake Charles Housing Rehabilitation Recovery Program (HRRP).
To celebrate the kickoff of the rehabilitation process, Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter visited the home of 92-year-old Lucille Hebert.
Her house – which she moved into alongside her late husband in 1955 – was heavily damaged by the 100-year flood of May 2021. Hebert’s daughter recounted losing furniture, photographs and vital documentation.
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“You never think of what you will need after a flood… we had things in a safe, but the safe was on the ground and got flooded… we had documents in the bottom drawer. Why we put them in the bottom drawer? I don’t know.”
Hebert has lived with her daughter for the past two years, but never gave up hope that the home she lived in for more than 60 years would be repaired. Her efforts were rewarded after the city announced that HRRP funding would become available.
“She saw the mayor on TV talking about this plan to help people repair their homes so they can get back home again, and mom was like ‘I’m in!’” her daughter said.
After applying, Hebert prayed. “I just thank the Lord,” she said. “I said please help me when I first started hearing about this, I said please Lord have me on the list, help me.”
She has kept up her prayer, but has directed her energy to the workers that are rebuilding her house as an expression of gratitude. Every morning during her morning prayers, she asks that every worker remain safe, healthy and just as blessed.
For Hunter, meeting Hebert was a surreal manifestation of the city’s efforts to repair Lake Charles. “Meeting Ms. Hebert was kind of an emotional moment; to hear her story about what she went through…It was really a special thing to hear her tell that story.”
He describes Hebert as “just a perfect, beautiful person and a case study for what HRRP is really designed to do.”
This was Hunter’s first opportunity to get to know one of the homeowners approved for HRRP. The program was introduced to assist homeowners in Lake Charles’ jurisdiction that had severe damages to their homes due to hurricanes Laura, Delta and the May 2021 flooding event.
“We knew we couldn’t just sit on our hands and do nothing and just wait for the federal government,” Hunter said. “It took so long for us to get the federal disaster aid we needed for so many individuals who were left without sustainable and healthy housing after the storms during that process and we were fighting for that money.”
The city “cobbled together” some city and state money – 9.3 million.
Mark Tizano, Lake Charles director of community development, stated that over 200 households will be back in their homes due to HRRP.
Hunter stated that equity was built into the program due to the Department of Housing and Urban Developments regulations. To qualify for the program, homeowners had to be at least 62 years old, a single parent head of household or disabled. Additionally, their gross household income must be 80 percent or below the area median income.
Homeowners are awarded up to $60,000 for home rehabilitation; these payments are made directly to the contractors.
The construction on Hebert’s home began last Friday, but the first job started the preceding Wednesday. Tizano said there are currently ten homes that have begun the construction process, and more projects are slowly accumulating. “They just trinkle in.”
The city has contracted 46 teams. A total of 35 of these teams hail from Southwest Louisiana, but this recovery has proven to be a widespread effort, with 11 teams traveling in from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Gonzales and Houston.
Hebert’s home is expected to be livable in just three weeks. Tizano hopes this will be the reality for up to 30 households by Easter weekend.
After a few years of tumultuous recovery and legislative stallings, seeing the construction on Clover Drive is a breath of fresh air. Hunter stated that the process was exacerbated by some “hiccups along the way” such as limited staff, limited funding and widespread destruction.
“We’re not going to deny that it took longer than we wanted to get this money to hit the streets… The most important thing today is that we’re focused more on today and tomorrow than we are on yesterday,” he explained. “We’ve got to embrace the small victories just like we embrace the large victories.”
“The most important thing is that we’re moving forward.”
Homeowners still in need of housing assistance from Hurricanes Laura and Delta can register for Restore Louisiana at restore.la.gov.