Another Road Home oddity

So I’m reading the Times Picayune Money section on Sunday and the Answer Spot column had some interesting queries about how the program will work for folks who have already sold their flood damaged (eligible) homes. We’re considering applying for the program but haven’t so far. While we are certainly eligible and deserve the assistance (I think of it as reparations), we didn’t really need it to move forward. I figured that to even be worth our while, I’d have a protracted fight to prove the pre-storm value of my home. Depending on how they figure it, most scenarios would have us getting a small to non-existent award anyway. And unlike the administrators of the Road Home program, we recognized that time is, in fact, money, and tried to make the best of our situation as quickly as possible. If we had had to wait on Road Home funds as so many others have to make headway, we’d have probably left the state already.

We sold our flooded home and bought a new home in Orleans parish. This is a situation the Road Home is supposed to be designed to help with. But if you sold your home and purchased prior to getting your award, here’s what the T-P says of the Road Home in that scenario:

If the Road Home program determines that the title to a property has been transferred to a new buyer, the applicant is notified that benefits cannot be provided until the Road Home program has assisted those who still own their home and confirmed that there are adequate funds remaining.

You should be aware that even if the Road Home program finds that it has enough funding to help those who have already sold their homes, the amount you received from the sale of your damaged residence will be deducted from your future Road Home benefits.

If we’d have applied and waited for the Road Home award prior to selling our home, we’d still be waiting. We’d still be paying rent.(FEMA’s “rental assistance” is a joke that we also abandoned) We’d still be paying a partial mortgage, property taxes, and other fees on our flooded home. We’d have probably ended up spending more on all of those non-recoverable expenses while we waited than the value of our award would be worth even in the best of circumstances. Time IS money.

Part of the problem with these programs is that they’re so worried about the bad publicity around potential fraud by applicants that they’ve made the process impossibly cumbersome. And by increasing the complexity, they’ve only increased the potential to create exploitable loopholes. And of course, far too much money is spent just administering a hopelessly complex program. I wonder what the average administrative cost is per award grant.

Last time I checked, homeowners and renters in New Orleans didn’t lie about the condition, design, and maintenance of levees and floodwalls. We were the ones who were lied to. We were the ones who paid the taxes and the insurance and we are the defrauded party here.

Scott Harney

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