‘Fortify Homes’ grants seek to lower insurance costs for Louisiana property owners

youngsville home built by Clare Homes
Fortified Roof houses, like this one built by Clare Homes in Youngsville, offer a potential example of how Lafayette's communities can build their way to long-term resilience by upgrading storm-vulnerable parts of houses and lowering homeowners insurance premiums. Photo by Travis Gauthier

This story was first reported by Louisiana Illuminator and republished with permission.

Homeowners in Louisiana will soon be able to apply for $10,000 grants to help bring their homes up to new building code standards that will drive down property insurance premiums thanks to new funding from state lawmakers.

It’s called the Louisiana Fortify Homes Program, and state Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said he expects the application period to open in October. The program will offer grants of up to $10,000 for eligible homeowners to retrofit their roofs to standards set by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.

The standards call for new construction techniques and better fasteners and seals that allow roofs to withstand winds of up to 150 mph and keep water from leaking through the wood under the roof surface. Other techniques include wall-to-floor foundation strengthening and reinforcements to windows, doors and skylights. 

The Louisiana Legislature established the Fortify Homes Program last year but failed to fund it. Faced with a worsening property insurance crisis in southeast Louisiana this year, lawmakers appropriated $30 million for the program in a budget bill approved last week, finally paving the way for the grants to be awarded. The program is modeled off one in Alabama that Donelon said has proven effective.

Eligible applicants must have a single-family, owner-occupied home that can pass inspection from a licensed fortified home evaluator. Applications will be available on the Louisiana Department of Insurance website once enrollment begins.

Property owners who don’t qualify for the grants can still get significant discounts on their insurance premiums if they retrofit their homes or buildings to the fortified standards, and that goes for both residential and commercial buildings. 

Gov. John Bel Edwards recently signed into law a package of legislation, including House Bill 294 from Rep. Matthew Willard, D-New Orleans, and Senate Bill 113 from Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, that requires insurance companies to provide discounts to any residential structure, commercial building, modular home or manufactured home that is retrofitted to fortified standards.

“SB 113 and HB 294 together will require insurance companies, following an actuarial evaluation, to reduce premiums for homeowners and business owners who install or retrofit their homes and businesses with fortified roofs and other hurricane mitigation features,” Hewitt said in a text message. “Our citizens need relief on their insurance!” 

The policy discount amount will vary depending on individual policies but could be as high as 55%,according to information from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety. Donelon has said he expects most discounts will be around 20%.