Carter holds community meetings on the insurance crisis, affordable housing

Published: Aug. 23, 2023 at 7:25 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As the insurance crisis continues, Congressman Troy Carter hosted a series of roundtable discussions (Aug. 23) to focus on the problem and the need for more affordable housing.

Carter, a Democrat, who represents New Orleans, some of the river parishes and portions of Baton Rouge says he wants to make sure the public is aware of available resources.

“We continue to let people know that if you’re struggling with maintaining your home, if you want to own a home, if insurance prices are choking you there are resources, albeit limited, but there are resources that are available,” said Carter.

The first meeting was at Southern University in New Orleans on Wednesday morning (Aug. 23), attracting dozens of housing advocates and others.

Patrick Bell, assistant Louisiana Insurance Commissioner, took part in the discussion. He concedes it is a tough insurance market.

“We were struck by four hurricanes in a two-year period, Laura, Delta, Zeta, and then Ida, all right. As a result of those four hurricanes, it ended up with 11 insurers going insolvent followed by an additional 12 or more that have pulled out of the market and so we have what’s called a hard market when it comes to insurance but we’re not by ourselves,” said Bell.

The Louisiana Housing Corporation’s executive director Joshua Hollins was also involved in the conclave.

“The help that we have for average citizens ranges from rental assistance, so if you’re renting, we have tenant-based rental assistance,” said Hollins. “We also help those citizens around rehabbing homes as well.”

There is assistance for developers of affordable housing as well, he said.

“We’re also with our developers who are looking to develop housing that are seeing astronomical insurance prices where the Housing Corporation is often able to come in and fill that gap,” said Hollins.

Deidre Robert of the USDA told those in attendance that the federal agency’s resources are under-utilized.

“Through our direct loans and our guaranteed loan program we offer low interest, below the market rate, congressman, we offer a hundred percent financing,” said Robert. “We look at creditworthiness, we look at a score but we look more at creditworthiness for our folks that want to have homeownership.”

William Stoudt of Rebuilding Together took part in the roundtable and expressed concerns about the state’s new program which will provide grants to homebuyers to harden their roofs against hurricanes. He fears people who need it most may be shut out of the program. The grants will be doled out on a first-come-first-serve basis.

“People that can’t afford insurance need fortified roofs the most because they’re never going to be able to afford insurance and the program that’s been designed has no means testing and will benefit the people that can already afford replacing their roofs,” said Stoudt.

A new state law requires insurers to give discounts to homeowners who fortify their roofs, but they must build or retrofit structures to comply with requirements of the State Uniform Construction Code or the fortified home standards created by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.

Carter thinks more should be done to help homeowners.

“Act 1 is good, moving forward with having incentives for people who take the necessary steps to fortify their roofs, but most people can’t afford that, so how do we create programs like we talked about today to assist people with fortifying their roofs which would then unlock lower rates,” he said.

Meanwhile, a Metairie homeowner who did not want her name used said she and her husband are frustrated over the high cost of insurance for their home.

“Up to about $7,000 already this year, “she said. “It’s not cool, it’s unfair. It almost makes purchasing a home to be unaffordable these days.”

The higher insurance costs are making it harder for the couple to sell their home. “We have our home up for sale, everyone loves our house but with insurance prices going up it’s making it a lot more difficult to sell,” said the homebuyer.

Hollins says the Louisiana Housing Corporation also has programs to help increase affordable housing.

“We’re also with our developers who are looking to develop housing that are seeing astronomical insurance prices where the Housing Corporation is often able to come in and fill that gap,” said Hollins.

Both the LHC and USDA urge people to check their websites for information.

Two other meetings were held in St. John Parish and in Baton Rouge.

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