Post-Katrina Housing Projects Delayed

Thu July 08, 2010 - National Edition
Construction Equipment Guide


NEW ORLEANS (AP) Two post-Hurricane Katrina housing projects for special needs residents have been stalled for months as the State Bond Commission awaits a report from the University of New Orleans.

The nonprofit developer Gulf Coast Housing Partnership has spent more than $1 million preparing the stalled projects: a new 70-apartment building in Mid-City and a 42-unit renovation in Central City, according to a report published in The Times-Picayune.

The nonprofit is using the Louisiana Recovery Authority’s so-called piggyback program to boost affordable rental housing by offering block grants riding on top of financing through low-income housing tax credits.

Progress has been stalled since September pending approval from the commission, which is waiting for a second round of independent studies about the city’s rental market before making a decision.

“These projects are among the best of the piggyback program,” LRA board member Walt Leger Jr. said. “They address a critical need for a special needs population.”

The piggyback program has given the green light to 57 projects representing investments of $591 million for 7,554 rental units across southern Louisiana. Twenty projects are complete, and another 18 are under construction.

As of March, the overall occupancy rates of the completed piggyback projects was 91 percent.

Many of the completed projects have shown success so far. Among those are three projects in New Orleans by Domain Companies totaling 483 units, with about half offering below-market rates.

“All three developments leased up within six months of opening and have maintained 100 percent occupancy with waiting lists since that time,” Domain principal Matthew Schwartz said. “The model has proven tremendously successful, and we hope to continue to partner with LRA on our development plans going forward.”

The State Bond Commission decided last fall that the special needs housing projects would be deferred until the panel received a final housing report that is being prepared at the University of New Orleans.

The report is expected to be released this summer, meaning that bond commission action probably would not be taken until August or September at the earliest, representing a one-year delay.

The bond commission is a mixture of House and Senate members, statewide elected politicians and representatives of Gov. Bobby Jindal, who carries the most weight on the panel.

The Housing Partnership has developed several projects on the Gulf Coast. For financing these under the piggyback program, the partnership has lined up a combination of federal block grants and investors willing to take the federal tax credits through the proposed bonds.




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