New Orleans Dep't. of Safety and Permits is being somewhat lenient when it comes to determining the amount of damage done to peoples' homes. The determining factor in deciding whether a home must be raised (or razed) if the cost of repair is more than 50% of the value of the home. Many homeowners are convincing city inspectors to lower their damage estimate in order for their house to be "grandfathered" in at the current base flood elevation. This means that it will not have to be elevated. And this not just because residents are cheap.
According to Greg Meffert, the city's chief technology officer,
"If it is a 'gray zone' call, virtually 100 percent of the time, we're going to go in the direction of where the resident wants us to go,"
For many homeowners, it's a matter of simple economics. Contractors say raising some homes, particularly those built on slabs, can top $100,000 before repairs even begin. Because many homeowners are finding their flood policies will pay enough to cover repairs to their homes -- but not to demolish and rebuild -- they are doing all they can to complete the work with the money they have.
Homeowners whose homes flooded are finding themselves between a rock and a soft space, with the soft space being the City of New Orleans and the rock being FEMA. What FEMA doesn't understand is that the flooding was not a result of being located in a low area with inadequate drainage, but rather what amounted to a dam break.
Residents also find themselves to be in the middle of a four-man tug-of-war with the Bring New Orleans Back Commision and FEMA pulling in one direction and mortgage lenders and insurance companies pulling in the other direction. With the city permit office supplying some leniency thereby allowing homeowners to rebuild, they are doing a great service to the rebuilding effort.