from NOLA dot com
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development cleared the way Tuesday for the Louisiana Recovery Authority and local governments to use Community Development Block Grant funds to help people with toxic drywall in their homes.
This fall, the Louisiana Recovery Authority set aside $5 million to help Road Home applicants with problem drywall. Many homes that were built or repaired after Hurricane Katrina were constructed with wall board that emits sulfuric gases that many people believe are making them sick and are corroding metal fixtures and appliances in homes. Insurers so far have been rejecting claims for damage, leaving homeowners without a source of money to fix the damage.
Tuesday's announcement takes a major step toward making funds available to help drywall victims, but money cannot be disbursed until the federal government comes up with protocols on how to test for drywall and agrees on the proper way to remediate damage. Those decisions are expected to be made early next year.
"This is kind of like half the equation," Stephens said.
HUD's announcement also means that the Recovery Authority could make funds available to non-Road Home applicants with drywall problems, if money could be found.
Similarly, local jurisdictions could use their CDBG entitlement funds to help non-hurricane victims with drywall in their homes as long as such efforts were aimed at low- to moderate-income people, meaning people who earn less than 80 percent of the area median income.
Money could be used to remediate, demolish or acquire homes with bad drywall, or to move people into apartments while their residences are being fixed.
Bad drywall has been found in 35 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, but most of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's 2,360 complaints have come from Florida, Louisiana and Virginia. In recent weeks, the Recovery Authority has registered 574 people with problem drywall in their homes, and is continuing to collect more names.
Reporting the problem to the Recovery Authority will help the state document how big the problem is and make the case for federal assistance. Anyone who hasn't yet registered with the Recovery Authority should complete a form online at lra.louisiana.gov/drywallform or call the state's contaminated drywall hotline at 1.866.684.1713.
Most of the bad drywall was imported from China because domestic manufacturers couldn't meet demand for wallboard after the disastrous 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons and because of the housing boom. Recently, problems have also been discovered with some U.S. drywall.
In its announcement, HUD also reminded lenders using Federal Housing Administration-insured loans that they should use existing forbearance programs to work with borrowers in financial distress because of drywall problems.