Aug 19, 2010 7:45 PM by Carolyn Cerda

Elevation Funds Debate

Some Vermilion Parish homeowners are struggling with a huge financial decision. Thursday afternoon, The Office of Community Development held a meeting in Abbeville to try to resolve a debate between 540 people across Louisiana and State officials.

It all started in 2008, after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, when residents from South Louisiana say they were urged to elevate their homes then, and were told by state officials they would be reimbursed from FEMA later.

"We followed to a 'T' what we were told we were suppose to do," said Forked Island resident Yvonne Simon.

But now, two years later, they still haven't received any funds. They say, that's because they were mislead by state officials about elevation regulations. Residents were told they could elevate their homes based on the FEMA guidelines that were currently in place, and if and when the guidelines or flood maps changed, they would be "grand fathered" in and would still be compliant.

The problem is, FEMA never agreed to those terms, and now that these residents are in a higher risk zone, their elevated homes do not meet requirements, are considered non-compliant, and they are no longer eligible for FEMA funds.

Residents we spoke with say they are frustrated and tapped out, after using their own retirement or savings to pay for the elevation.

"All of our healths are's very, very stressful," said Abbeville resident Lorraine Broussard.
"Everyone is depressed, fustrated with our state government... that they would allow something like this to happen," said Forked Island resident Sylvia Trahan.

At Thursday's meeting, OCD offered three options to resolve the issue.
Residents could choose to:

1.) Elevate their homes again to meet the current guidelines, and FEMA funds would be used for reimbursement.

2.) Not elevate their homes, leaving the houses at the elevation that was already built, and reimbursements would be issued through HUD.(up to $150,000)

3.) Choose not to participate at all - opt out entirely.

While some residents seemed pleased with the options, most said this was not the answer they wanted to hear.

"The State of Louisiana needs to step up and admit they made a mistake," said Trahan.



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