Last week’s authorization of $45 million in funding to entice insurance companies to return to the Louisiana markets won’t solve the problem with insurance. Louisiana has to stop investing in private companies and entities to save its citizens. We must invest in ourselves and in our communities. Beyond the wasteful corporate welfare there are several key problems in this approach:
1. There is NO guarantee that stable and reputable firms will come back to the market for these incentives.
2. Any insurers who do come back to the market will likely cherry pick from Louisiana Citizens customers with higher credit scores, higher incomes, and lower risk. There is also NO guarantee that those customers will see significant savings or if they will be subjected to policies that provide skeletal coverage.
3. Any investment of public dollars must benefit those who need help the most—those for whom the drastic increase is unsustainable for any significant amount of time and this strategy ignores those who are at risk of losing their housing because of the insurance crisis. That includes homeowners AND renters.
HousingLOUISIANA has proposed short term solutions that would keep people in their homes while we work on long term solutions. Efforts to must stabilize Louisiana Citizens and allowing it to function correctly as an insurance company without the constraints that benefit the private insurance industry must be seriously considered. One-time surplus funds could create a program that subsidizes insurance premium for low-moderate income homeowners and for landlords who are providing affordable housing.
Finally, we need a long-term solution. One that recognizes the risk to our communities- that Louisianans won’t be able to remain here. We have to invest in improving our housing stock. Housing must be addressed as a part of the immediate and emergency response to the devastation caused by recent events, but it must also be a part of strategies that will mark every part of any recovery. Long term plans should ensure that housing is guaranteed for all, and a system is in place that helps residents mitigate the next crisis—not simply survive it. Resiliency should no longer be measured by how much devastation a community can survive; it must be measured by the ability to protect and shelter the most vulnerable people from disasters.
Building science has evolved to the point where we can strengthen homes by improving the roofing system and increase the property’s ability to withstand the next storm. We can implementation of Energy Conversation Code 2021 in Louisiana and ensure that Code Enforcement officials have the resources necessary to implement the new code.
These are unfundable suggestions–there are hundreds of millions available in COVID relief, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and pending disaster relief that can all be used to rebuild and strengthen our communities. We cannot allow the missteps made with Katrina/Rita relief that left too many behind. Those still struggling after Hurricanes Laura, Delta, Zeta and Ida need impact investment to truly recover and be able to survive the next storm.
The plan that has been approved has failed before—after Hurricane Katrina. This insurance crisis provides an opportunity for traditionally marginalized participants to gain access to policymakers and advocate for policy proposals. By ensuring resources go to the people who need them most, we can move from a state of constant crisis to a state full of thriving communities where people are actually centered and given what they need.
Andreanecia M. Morris
Executive Director, HousingNOLA