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'It's very empowering': Habitat for Humanity women's group puts carpentry skills to test

They got out their hammers, drills and other tools to work on the house for the organization’s annual “Women Build” day.

The LSU’s Tiger Girls Dance Team, along with several regular volunteers, worked from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, erecting all four walls on the house on E. McKinley Street, half a mile from LSU’s north gate, where Hall will sign mortgage papers and live in a few months.

Owning a house before she turned 30 was Hall’s goal.

“Now, I’m going to accomplish that,” she said. “I’ve been coming out every Saturday. I like being out on site, hammering, painting and all that stuff.”

Lifting single mothers out of poverty by building homes -- the organization has built 330 houses in Baton Rouge since 1989 -- is fertile ground in Louisiana’s capital city, where a quarter of people live in poverty, according to census data. That 25 percent figure is 10 points higher than the national rate.

In north Baton Rouge, where Hall lives now, the numbers are worse.

Floods cause chaos in Baton Rouge housing market; renters especially vulnerable

But like thousands of other renters driven by the damage of the floods into the face of a suddenly tight housing market where rents are skyrocketing, no one seems certain of what comes next. And unenviable choices are often the only ones.

Simply put, the flooding that left thousands of families homeless have thrown the local housing market into chaos. Analysts and industry representatives say vacant apartments around Baton Rouge are now exceedingly rare and that prices to rent them are rising.

It's difficult to quantify how many renters are confronting the same kinds of situations as Philley. So, too, it is hard to measure the full extent of the damage flooding has dealt to the capital region's rental stock.

Though some analysts track larger apartment complexes like Philley's, scarce data is available about small rental properties such as the duplexes and shotgun homes that make up much of the rental housing available in Baton Rouge.

Arrangements like Philley's -- paying reduced rent in an effort to hold on to her apartment while it is under repair -- are likely legal under Louisiana's laws, attorneys and legal experts say, although the exact terms of each rental agreement vary.

Cannot pay mortgage have

My brother has been working with the Bank of America since July 2009 to get emergency assistance on his mortgage. He always worked and paid his bills but was diagnosed with bone cancer and cannot move around - so cannot work.