Louisiana's Severe Repetitive Loss Problem

Oct 5, 2017

Properties that flood over and over again are a longstanding problem for FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program. Around 30,000 of the most frequently flooded homes in the country make up less than a percent of the total insured pool, but pull down around 10 percent of total claim dollars.

And these aren't mansions. "The majority of people whose homes are frequently flooded are low- and middle-income people, working class folks," says Robert Moore, with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "I think over 60 percent of severe repetitive loss properties are single family homes that are worth less than $250,000."

Almost a quarter of these severe repetitive loss properties are in Louisiana. FEMA has paid out $1.22 billion on these 7,223 homes, all told, and that's just through November of last year.

"And that's reflective of the fact that Louisiana has one of the highest vulnerabilities to flood of any state in the nation," says Moore.
 

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The interactive map above displays data first obtained by the NRDC through a federal public records request. Click on a parish for information about severe repetitive loss in that community. For example, Avoyelles Parish has 31 properties that qualify as severe repetitive loss. Those 31 properties have flooded 137 times, with payouts totaling $1,352,211.72. A majority of those properties don’t have flood insurance.

Moore says that the data show that the current situation is "untenable." He and other experts argue that community mitigation efforts don't sufficiently reduce risk, and individual grants aren't substantial enough to encourage owners to take more action, so that those owners feel trapped where they are.

For example, under a lot of circumstances, homeowners can get $30,000 to elevate their homes. But if those homes are constructed on slab, as many are in suburban New Orleans and Baton Rouge, that's unlikely to be enough to pay for the elevation. And, if you want relocation assistance, says Moore, "it is very hard to come by, and it can take years for that process to finally result in your home being purchased and you actually moving away."

Louisiana has taken a mixed approach to repeat flood risk. Some communities do far more than others to reduce that risk. And the remedies chosen are piecemeal, and potentially uneven. In July, Sen. John Kennedy announced some grants coming through for various parishes: in Livingston Parish, the federal government bought out nine homes, but in St. Tammany, Jefferson, and Lafourche Parishes, federal grant money will elevate severe repetitive loss homes.

Sourcing information: National Flood Insurance Program data obtained by the Natural Resources Defense Council, via FOIA Request

Duration of Data: January 1, 1978-June 30, 2015
Total Property Values as of November 30, 2015

Estimates of Resident Population Change and Rankings: July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2016
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division
Release Date: March 2017

This content is provided by the Louisiana Public Radio Partnership, and made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.