Following the destruction wrought by Hurricane Ida to homes in Louisiana in 2021, the concept of strengthening a home’s roof through the ‘FORTIFIED’ roof program, which Roofing Contractor magazine explored last June, is getting a major boost in the Cajun state.
Starting Oct. 2, the roughly 132,000 people who have homeowners policies through Louisiana’s insurer of last resort will be eligible to apply for $10,000 grants to strengthen their roofs, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon announced last week.
The hope, Donelon’s office said, is that the “fortified” roofs will lower the current risk being assumed by Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which provides homeowner’s insurance for those property owners unable to obtain coverage, and encouraging private insurers to assume policies from Citizens.
According to reporting by The Advocate, Donelon’s office has been struggling to trim Citizens’ rolls, which grew substantially after a series of hurricanes hit the state in 2020 and 2021, followed by the collapse of nearly a dozen insurance companies that wrote policies in Louisiana. While there have been no new company failures in recent months, many insurers have been reluctant to take on new business in Louisiana. Florida is facing a similar situation, as previously reported in Roofing Contractor.
Insurance Department officials said only 500 grants will be given away in the first round of funding. They expect that nearly every grant will be for the maximum amount of $10,000 because strengthening a typical roof usually costs more than that.
The Legislature has set aside $30 million for the program this year, meaning it could benefit about 3,000 policyholders.
According to a Donelon spokesperson, half of the money will be set aside for Citizens policyholders. Unsurprisingly, Citizens customers are crowded within Louisiana’s coastal communities, especially in heavily populated areas of southeastern Louisiana; more than half live in three state parishes: Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany.
The second half will go to private policyholders in later rounds. The spokesperson said that the department’s first priority is to get people off Citizens’ rolls, and reducing their risk seemed like a good way to accomplish that.
Officials said that those who intend to apply on Oct. 2 must create an electronic profile with the Department of Insurance ahead of time. The application window will open at noon on Oct. 2, and department officials expect the grants will go quickly.
Those who are approved for grants through the program, officially known as the Louisiana Fortify Homes Program, do not receive the money directly. The money is paid directly to the contractor who does the work; contractors must be approved and trained in the program to participate.
Donelon said a roof need not be replaced completely to be fortified, but the process is involved, and it’s simpler to do when a roof is being replaced. The process aims to make roofs more windproof by using stronger “ring-shank” nails and more waterproof by requiring that the roof decking be covered with an impermeable material before shingles are added.
Certified roofing contractors install the roofs, and a third party then verifies their work. At the end of the process, homeowners receive a certificate that insurers accept in exchange for a discount.
The program is based on a similar program first pioneered by Alabama a decade earlier; the program has been credited with reducing insurance rates in coastal counties, and state officials said more than 35,000 home roof systems have since been built or upgraded to meet the "fortified" standard.
There are a host of rules governing eligibility for the program; details can be found HERE.