Concerns Arise Over Funding For Apartments – State Senator questions “who’s watching the shop in these agencies?” – Louisiana Housing Finance Agency

Maybe the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency just ‘overlooked’ the changes in this project like they ‘overlooked’ (and still do) the mold inspection reports when involved in the sale of Jefferson Lakes Apartments in Baton Rouge.  katy

State Senator Questions Developers

NEW ORLEANS — State Sen. Ann Duplessis said she is concerned over an apartment complex in New Orleans East called Levy Gardens being built with state and federal money.

“It was wrong for these developers to do a bait and switch,” said Duplessis. “I was skeptical about the project from the get go, but decided to go along with it to get more affordable housing after Hurricane Katrina. But now I want to know, who’s watching the shop in these agencies?”

Duplessis said she is steaming mad over a stalled $20 million development designed to help build affordable housing. Federal disaster recovery money, channeled through the state, helped finance the project.

“The original plan was to build 100 units of townhomes. They were single story single family homes with their own garage and green space and it was supposed to be a gated community,” said Duplessis.

The office of community development financed $11 million of the project through a loan. But somewhere along the way plans changed to between 400 and 500 units: 13 three-story buildings with three to four bedroom apartments.

“That is a drastic change in what the original concept was. And it was changed without any notification, without any input, without going through the system and processes that serve to protect communities,” said Duplessis.

Duplessis said she began her own investigation. She said she quickly realized the marketing and feasibility study that the project was based on had errors in it and that part of the project was not properly zoned. Her findings sparked a lawsuit a recent court order put a stop to construction.

The Louisiana Housing Finance Agency, which oversees how the funds are distributed, is now preparing to conduct its own investigation.

“I do intend to take further look at that study and see how all those changes have transpired,” said Wayne Woods, chairman of the LHFA Board.

So was this a lack of oversight on their behalf?

“I don’t think this was a lack of oversight. I think that the agency and staff did what they normally would have done. I just think we need to go back and take a look at those processes,” said Woods.

At this point, Duplessis said she doesn’t care if the project is salvaged or not.

“In my mind, I want it to go away,” Duplessis said.

Woods said he will meet with the LHFA board in Baton Rouge Wednesday where he will begin his investigation into what happened. He said there is a possibility $4 million in tax credits to the developer, could be transferred if someone takes over the project.

WDSU called a representative for Levy Gardens and left several messages. He did not return our calls for comment.

About Sharon Kramer

Hi, I'm an advocate for integrity in health marketing and in the courts.
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