Government & Politics

Frustrated homeowner resorts to demolition

By Jessica Williams, The Lens staff writer |

A family that vainly struggled through more than six years of bureaucracy to get back into their Katrina-damaged home, an effort recently chronicled in The Lens, finally gave up and had the structure torn down.

Homeowner Kisa Holmes said she found out last week that the demolition on her 9th Ward home was complete. That came just days after The Lens reported on her efforts to get back into the deteriorating house after her mortgage company coerced her into using her flood insurance money to pay off her loan after the 2005 hurricane.

Kisa Holmes is overcome with emotion as she talks about the decision to demolish the house she only lived in briefly before Katrina. Photo by Jessica Williams

However, neither Holmes nor her husband Jewell disclosed in the course of several interviews that they wanted to tear down the house. Holmes said in an interview today that she applied for a demolition permit with the city in September, and used close to $15,000 she received from FEMA’s Increased Cost of Compliance program to pay for the demolition.

Money from that program can be used only to raise, demolish, or relocate flooded homes that local officials determine have sustained damage of 50 percent or more of the home’s pre-flood value.

City records show that the permit application was submitted on Sept. 14, approved by the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee on Oct. 3, and that a demolition was listed as being complete, for the amount of $14,779, on Dec. 21.

Holmes said today she pursued a demolition because she felt she had no other choice.

“I was withdrawn from the Hazard Grant Mitigation Program. I wasn’t qualifying for any of the loans or anything like that. So that was my last alternative. And since I was able to be eligible for the ICC funds, I went on ahead and got the house demolished,” she said.

Holmes said she feels some closure about the entire ordeal since the house has been torn down, and even more closure at the fact that her struggle has now been publicized.

“It took a lot for me to tell the story, but it was OK. I felt really good. I’m not all bent out of shape about it like I used to be,” she said.

If the Holmes’ do get money to rebuild, she’d prefer to build on the empty lot, she said. According to city records, the family owes the city two years worth of property taxes on the now-razed home, in the amount of $753.77. Holmes said she’s worked out a payment plan with city officials.

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