BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Louisiana is in search of how to address the insurance crisis with the continued trend of stronger, more frequent storms. Along with incentivizing insurance companies to write policies, legislators are looking to fortify roofs as a way to lower costs and mitigate damage.
Earlier this year, legislators convened for a special session to put $45 million toward an incentive fund to draw in more insurance companies to write policies. Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said it was the best plan of action for the short term. With that out of the way, it is time to plan for the long term.
Some believe the best move is to fortify roofs on homes throughout the state. In 2022, legislators passed the Fortified Roof Program which is an account for grants to help homeowners build stronger roofs with a number of construction improvements.
State Rep. Gabe Firment, R-Pollock, who has been an insurance adjuster for years and owns his own roofing company said there is a stark difference in the amount of damage after storms between fortified roofs and those that aren’t.
“If you can keep your roof more or less intact, if you can keep wind and rain out of the interior of the home you greatly lessen the severity of damage,” Firment said. “And you make your home a better risk for the insurance companies and those are things we can do fairly easily and they’re not that costly.”
Firment has filed a bill that would require insurance companies to offer an endorsement for homeowners to upgrade to the fortified roof. Homeowners would still be charged a premium for the upgrade, but Firment said it would better help to make sure that new roofs or any replaced after a storm will have stronger elements.
“It’s going to be a good investment for insurance companies to get to a place where we’ve got fortified roofs throughout the state, especially in coastal areas,” Firment said.
Legislators will be pushing to get funding put into the Fortify Roofs Program grant account this year. State Rep. Mike Huval, R-Breaux Bridge, said for the next 5-10 years the state needs to be educating people about building stronger.
“We just need to incentivize people, give them reasons to build stronger homes so they can stay in their areas like in Cameron [Parish], like in Laffite. People like those areas and they want to stay there,” Huval said.
The hope is not only to make sure homes are not a total loss after a storm, but it could encourage insurance companies to lower the rates for homes south of I-10 that have stronger roofs.
“It’s not going to be overnight. But in my opinion, I feel that because a home is fortified, insurance companies will see this as a more attractive type of risk to want to insure them,” Huval said.
Other legislators are showing their support for the plan not just being a one-time fund but rather an ongoing expense to get more homeowners on board.
“The key to this is going to be we’ve got to commit to funding it for the long haul. We can’t just do it this year,” Firment said. “We’ve got to do it every year. We’ve got to educate the consumer. We’ve got to educate the home builders, the roofers.”
Huval said the goal is to get $10 million put into the program to reflect a similar move Alabama made years ago. Now thousands of homes in that state are fortified and report about significantly less damage during storms.
There are expected to be more bills that are aimed at helping fix the insurance crisis in the long term. The session begins on April 10 and with it being a fiscal year, legislators are limited to five non-tax-related bills.