Lack of available dollars stalled construction activity after the flood, Louisiana Home Builders Association rep says

    A Louisiana Home Builders Association representative refuted today claims that Louisiana has a shortage of licensed contractors needed to repair thousands of homes damaged by the mid-August flood.

    Ken Jones, who’s also a member of the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors, told attendees of today’s Leaders With Vision forum on the impact of the Great Flood of 2016 that contractors from throughout Louisiana converged on the Capital Region immediately after the flood to begin working. But they returned home once they realized that homeowners lacked the necessary dollars to rebuild, he said.

    “In our opinion there’s not a labor shortage,” Jones said. “There’s not a shortage of contractors. There’s a money shortage.”

    Approximately 31 inches of rainwater fell on the region last month, causing major waterways to rise and overflow, destroying thousands of homes and businesses, and killing 13 people. At least 75% of those affected by the storm did not have flood insurance, state officials have said.

    In a news release, the Small Business Administration said it has received 21,000 loan applications and has approved $376 million in financing during the flood recovery. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, meanwhile, recently gave National Flood Insurance Program policyholders in Louisiana 120 days to file claims instead of 60 days due to the magnitude of the flood.

    Mark Lujan, a FEMA representative, told attendees that his agency will not change its flood maps or base flood elevation requirements—questions homeowners are asking as they try to rebuild. Homeowners also need to consult their local flood plain administrators to determine if they have to elevate their homes, an added expense.

    Jones was one of at least eight representatives from several organizations to speak at the Leaders With Vision forum.

    He estimates there are 15,000 licensed contractors in Louisiana that are capable of performing the work many homeowners need.

    If preliminary estimates are correct that there are roughly 150,000 flood-damaged homes, each contractor could take on 10 properties, Jones said.

    “If the money is flowing, the contractors would be out working and putting homes back together. … Until the money side of the equation is resolved, it’s going to forestall construction activity from getting started,” he said, adding that business owners and homeowners need to realize that the recovery period will be lengthy.

    In the meantime, a consortium is being developed that would connect businesses and homeowners with contractors to assess their properties and begin work, Jones said.

    —Alexandria Burris

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