The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has denied relief to more than 2,500 disaster victims from the August 2016 flooding in Louisiana because of insufficient proof of homeownership. “Thousands of people live in homes that they don’t own outright because properties were passed on to family members without successions,” the Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF) explained in a press release.
BRAF hopes to reverse this trend through a program that aims to clear property title on flood-damaged homes so disaster victims can become eligible for FEMA funds and other federal grants to rebuild. “This free program will find all potential heirs to the properties and ask them to sign over their ownership—typically small amounts—to the person living in the home,” the BRAF press release stated.
The program will benefit from the use of a smartphone app, which allows homeowners to streamline the data collection required in the title-clearing process. BRAF collaborated with the American Bar Association Center for Innovation and Stanford University Law School to create the app.
Applicants will have to meet certain income eligibility levels, and the property must be the applicant’s primary residence and be located in the qualifying parishes of East Baton Rouge, Livingston or Ascension.
The BRAF program, supported by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is being overseen by Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, a civil legal aid organization that serves the state’s low-income population. The program is a collaborative effort among the Baton Rouge Bar Foundation, Baton Rouge Bar Association, Louisiana State Bar Association, Louisiana Bar Foundation, Southern University Law Center, LSU Law Center, Louisiana Appleseed, Equal Justice Works, and East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, the Capital Area United Way, the Greater New Orleans Foundation.