1/3 to 2/3's of Louisiana's displaced not rebuilding

AP/Houston Chronicle:

More than 16 months after hurricanes Katrina and Rita forced an unprecedented exodus from the Louisiana Gulf Coast, tens of thousands of homeowners have decided not to rebuild or have yet to make up their minds, an Associated Press analysis found.

The AP looked at applications to the federal funded Louisiana Road Home program, which dispenses up to $150,000 per homeowner to rebuild or sell out. Nearly 98,000 people have applied for aid so far.

Two-thirds of all applicants said they want to rebuild their damaged properties, while more than a quarter have indicated they want out or can't decide what to do.

But in dozens of towns and neighborhoods, particularly those closest to the coast, the percentages of homeowners on the fence or on the way out are higher than average, with as many as two out of three homeowners not committed to rebuilding. The areas, 31 ZIP codes in all, include several heavily damaged New Orleans neighborhoods such as Lakeview and the 9th Ward.

Michael Kurth, a McNeese State University economics professor who has done research for the Louisiana Recovery Authority, said he is not surprised.

"With the scale of destruction that occurred in those coastal areas, it wasn't a matter of 'Let's return in a month or in two months,' " Kurth said. "In a lot of cases, you couldn't go back to what was there before. It's just not there."

The Louisiana migration is looking more permanent each day. It makes no sense to live below the flood plain and it is ridiculous to rebuild below sea level as is the case in parts of New Orleans. Those choosing to rebuild along the coast may be required to elevate their homes 20 feet above ground level. That puts their first floor at the equivalent of a the third floor of a traditional structure. Stepping outside requires a strong balcony.


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