Lafourche adds to public housing stock

Public input sought on Thib. zoning maps
February 5, 2014
La. could resume electric chair use
February 5, 2014
Public input sought on Thib. zoning maps
February 5, 2014
La. could resume electric chair use
February 5, 2014

Construction has begun on 12 affordable rental units in Lafourche Parish stemming from $3 million in Community Development Block Grant funding awarded to parish government following hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Lafourche Housing Authority and Lafourche ARC were designated a combined $2.5 million for separate affordable rental housing construction projects through the parish award. LHA is building seven homes in Raceland, and Lafourche ARC will construct five homes in Thibodaux.

“Gustav and Ike, as well as Katrina and Rita before them, revealed a dire need for sturdy, dependable rental housing,” Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph said. “This grant, and the projects it is funding, helps us mitigate against future damage, allowing evacuees to return home after a storm with little or no damage.”

The housing authority received close to $1.4 million through parish government for its first new public-housing construction project in nearly 30 years, LHA Executive Director Beryl Pitre said. Construction is on pace to finish by November, she added.

All of the housing authority units will be two-bedroom, one-bathroom, single-family cottages, Pitre said. They are being built at a 3-foot elevation alongside individual storage sheds and are equipped with environmentally friendly appliances, light fixtures and insulation.

A mixture of low- and moderate-income families will live in the cottages. The upper threshold is designated to exclude families who earn more than 80 percent of the area median area income ($46,650 for a family of four in 2014), but other income limits will be set to reserve units for people who earn less. A specific wage scale and population ratio of low-to-moderate occupants has not been finalized but is forthcoming, Pitre said.

“I’m waiting on technical assistance from the state CDBG office to set the restrictions,” Pitre said.

Construction is on a plot of land between Greenville and St. Patrick streets in Raceland already owned by the housing authority. Roughly 4.5 acres, the tract was subdivided into 16 lots, leaving space to potentially build more cottages with rent money derived from the initial seven, Pitre said.

“Any reserves that are kept for improvements and expenses, anything above and beyond that, we hope to be able to add new units in the future as we can generate a positive cash flow and income for it,” Pitre said.

Aside from the ongoing project, LHA’s stock includes 276 low-income rental units, 200 of which are more than 40 years old. The authority also issues 271 Housing Choice – formerly Section 8 – vouchers. Through these programs, LHA serves about 550 of the parish’s extremely low-income families, Pitre said.

LHA also manages via a nonprofit component organization the 112-unit City Place II apartment complex in Lockport, where rent prices are set at market rates and are thus tailored toward a slightly higher class.

“Seven units is a very small number,” Pitre said. “Although we did not do a study of any type, our 112-unit complex at City Place stays at 98- to 100-percent occupancy, so we do believe that there is a need for more affordable rentals in Lafourche Parish.”

The housing authority will manage the units via another, newly created nonprofit component unit called the Cottages of Central Lafourche, Pitre said.

Lafourche Arc, which has identified more than 50 people with developmental disabilities in need of affordable housing, will oversee construction of five units housing nine people through application of just less than $1.1 million, said Lester Adams, the organization’s executive director.

Construction of these units should begin in the summer or fall, Adams said.

“The people particularly that we serve, with developmental disabilities, many of them live simply off of SSI (Supplemental Security Income), and so shared rent is something that is important so they can share expenses,” Adams said.

Four of the Lafourche ARC houses will have two bedrooms and a common living area. Three of these units will have two bathrooms, with the fourth – featuring a specialized shower – only having one bathroom.

The fifth Lafourche Arc unit is dedicated for an elderly resident. It will have one bedroom and one bathroom.

The Thibodaux-based organization contributed $127,000 of its own funds to purchase property off Westover Drive in Thibodaux, Adams said.

Lafourche ARC offers various services and vocations to people with development disabilities in Lafourche and six other regional parishes. The organization operates six homes that each house six people in Lafourche.

Aside from the $2.5 million construction budget, about $500,000 in CDBG funds is being held in contingency in the event change orders are required, parish administrator Archie Chiasson said via the parish’s spokesperson.

Weimer, Gros, Flores, of Thibodaux, is the architectural firm overseeing both projects. Texas-based J.C. Lewis Construction was awarded the construction contract.

“We partnered with these two agencies, LARC and the Housing Authority, because of their successful track record with housing, and we are confident the tenants will be well served,” Randolph said.