Louisiana town moves to higher ground amid growing climate crisis

Darrell Washington uses a small boat to navigate through his Pecan Acres neighborhood, Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008 in Franklin, La.

John Rowland | The Daily Advertiser | AP

Darrell Washington uses a small boat to navigate through his Pecan Acres neighborhood, Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008 in Franklin, La.

“It’s quite clear that we’re having more disasters. At the same time, I think that we are seeing less and less willingness to fund these wholesale recoveries. And consequently, we had to start doing things that are smarter,” said Pat Forbes, executive director of the Louisiana Office of Community Development. “One of the easiest, smartest things you can do is get people out of harm’s way.”

At the gathering in the church meeting house, Forbes sought to assure the several dozen homeowners involved that they would not be affected by floods in the new area. Not only that, they could get larger, more energy-efficient homes. The homes are expected to be completed by the fall of 2020.

“It’s going to be a model,” Forbes told the gathering.

The program will buy out each homeowner, but since these damaged homes have so little value now, homeowners will also get forgivable loans, up to $200,000, to buy into the new community. For each year they live in their new home, they get one-fifth of the loan forgiven. In five years, the home is theirs, debt free. The cost: roughly $8 million. An additional $4 million will be used to demolish the old neighborhood and restore it to wetlands.

Curnell Jackson, who has lived in her Pecan Acres home since it was built nearly 50 years ago, was eager to hear the details. She raised her children there and is now raising her granddaughter in the barely habitable home. In the recent floods, water rose halfway up her kitchen walls, and now those walls are covered in newspaper where the drywall was removed. The floors have been ripped up, and she can no longer use gas to heat her stove due to damage in the walls. Flood insurance is far too expensive for anyone in this neighborhood.

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