The Baton Rouge Area Foundation is underwriting a free legal assistance program to help people clear property titles on flood-damaged homes so they can become eligible for thousands of dollars in federal grants to rebuild from the August flood.
BRAF announced the program, which is being supported with a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant, during a 3 p.m. press conference today.
According to a news release, BRAF and Kellogg have committed $550,000 for the program, which Southeast Louisiana Legal Services is overseeing.
The foundation aims to clear titles on 500 homes damaged during the August flood and intends to search for more funding to continue the program.
“Our goal over the next year is to secure permanent funding to continue this program as long as it’s needed,” BRAF Project Manager Lauren Crapanzano Jumonville says in a prepared statement. “Turning people into homeowners has proven to be among the best mechanisms for reclaiming neighborhoods.”
With a clear title, homeowners can draw down money to rebuild flood-damaged homes. BRAF says the Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied funding to more than 2,500 people in disaster-declared parishes who couldn’t prove homeownership.
“Thousands of people live in homes that they don’t own outright because properties were passed on to family members without successions,” the foundation says in the news release. “This free program will find all potential heirs to the properties and ask them to sign over their ownership—typically small amounts—to the person living in the home.”
To be eligible for the program, the flood-impacted home must be the resident’s primary residence and located in East Baton Rouge, Livingston or Ascension parishes. The home must have a sound structure, and the applicant also must meet income eligibility levels.
BRAF says it also has collaborated with the American Bar Association Center for Innovation and Stanford University Law School to create a smartphone app in which homeowners can enter personal information and get a head start on gathering required documents.
SLLS, which is overseeing the program, is partnering with the Baton Rouge Bar Foundation, Southern University Law Center, LSU Law Center, Baton Rouge Bar Association, Louisiana Appleseed, Equal Justice Works, Louisiana State Bar Association, Louisiana Bar Foundation and East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority. Also contributing are the Capital Area United Way and the Greater New Orleans Foundation.
Apply online or by calling 1-844-244-7871.