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Homeowners still waiting for money

Even though the Army Corps of Engineers has begun demolishing homes to attempt to improve levees, displaced residents still have not been given temporary relocation assistance or been paid for their flood-ravaged property.

Fourteen homes are being removed for work along the 17th Street Canal, which breached after Hurricane Katrina and contributed to massive flooding in New Orleans.

Beth LeBlanc, who bought her one-story brick house for $135,000 five years ago, said she’s caught in the middle.

“I can’t get a FEMA trailer because I can’t put it on my property. I’ve gotten no help finding another place. And they haven’t paid me for my home,” said LeBlanc, who’s been living in a friend’s trailer.

Marlene Boudreaux, part owner of a destroyed duplex, said she’s living in a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer in Kenner on land owned by a cousin.

“They told us they’re going to make us whole, but I didn’t get a penny yet,” Boudreaux said.

Boudreaux said she has been looking at houses and is eager to buy one, but “we don’t know when the Corps is going to come across.”

Janet Cruppi, chief of the real estate division of the Corps’ New Orleans District, said she expects an answer this week about the temporary relocation assistance that will be provided to the property owners.

A maximum of $5,250 is available for each property owner for temporary relocation assistance, she said.

The Corps hopes to have appraisals for the properties by the end of August or beginning of September, Cruppi said. Negotiations then will begin regarding how much the federal government should pay owners for their property.

They will receive the post-Katrina value of their property, Cruppi said.

The standing structures must be demolished for safety reasons, said Col. Richard Wagenaar, district commander for the corps. Vibrations from construction work could have damaged the homes even more and demolition also will improve access to the construction site, he said.