Construction begins at first of Big 4 slated for historic transformation. HUD also to host Gulf Coast housing symposium at Tulane
NEW ORLEANS – U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Steve Preston joined General Douglas O’Dell, Mayor Ray Nagin and other partners today to break ground at the former St. Bernard public housing site and make way for Columbia Citi Residences at Bayou District, a new mixed-income community. This historic groundbreaking marks the start of HUD’s ambitious effort to redevelop four of New Orleans’ large public housing developments that suffered from massive flooding after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“This groundbreaking builds on a commitment HUD made to create communities that are inclusive, better and safer than what families had before,” said Preston. “We promised you new housing, a new community, and a better life. This groundbreaking marks the start of fulfilling that promise.”
“Today’s groundbreaking marks a tremendous milestone in recovery and rebuilding for residents here, those who want to return and others who want to live in Orleans Parish,” said General Douglas O’Dell, Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding. “President Bush remains fully committed to the people of Gulf Coast and his Administration has laid the foundation for many of the successes we will see in the years to come. Secretary Preston and his team at HUD have worked diligently to ensure the residents here have access to affordable housing. But the work doesn’t stop here. Later today, we will, together at a HUD-sponsored roundtable, further explore options for making more affordable rental housing units available in the greater metro area.”
The first phase of development will bring 466 units of two and three story residential town homes, including 157 public housing units, 160 tax-credit units that can be rented using rental assistance vouchers, and 149 market rate rental units. When Columbia Citi Residences at Bayou District is completed in 2010 the community will consist of a mix of housing, including public housing, other affordable housing as well as market rate rental housing. There will also be homeownership possibilities for low-income families and market rate homes. Total new housing will be 1,326. The new community will also bring a golf course, new schools, a library, retail and community center.
The total development cost for this phase is $138 million, including nearly $30 million of HUD funding and $27 million from Louisiana’s Community Development Block Grant program. The new community also received substantial private investment from AEGON USA Realty, Regions Bank, Freddie Mac and MMA Financial.
Joining Preston were Diane Johnson, the HUD-appointed Board Chair and Karen Cato-Turner Executive Administrator for the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO). Several other local officials and developer partners that helped make this day possible attended, including the development team Columbia Residential, the Bayou District Foundation and Fore!Kids Foundation.
Today’s groundbreaking represents a six-year effort by HUD to revitalize New Orleans’ public housing. When HUD took over HANO in 2002, it began an ambitious plan to redevelop the city’s public housing communities to create communities that are inclusive and safer. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, HANO, under a HUD receivership, had redeveloped public housing communities at Fischer, Guste, St. Thomas, now River Garden, and Desire, now Abundance Square.
HUD will also bring public and private partners together today at Tulane’s Woldenburg Art Center to discuss the progress being made to address affordable rental housing in New Orleans. Participating in Partnering for Gulf Coast Progress Housing Symposium will be the State of Louisiana, the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency, the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the City of New Orleans and the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding.
“Today’s groundbreaking to bring new affordable homes to the old St. Bernard neighborhood is a testament to what partnerships can accomplish,” said Preston. “That’s the importance of the symposium – to bring our partners together in one room to discuss pooling federal, local, private-sector and non-profit resources to ensure New Orleans’ rental housing needs are met well into the future.”
A report that will be presented at the symposium concludes that the federal government has provided a substantial amount of resources toward rebuilding the affordable rental stock and providing tenant-based subsidies. The group will discuss on how current market conditions are impacting the number of affordable units projected to be developed and talk about possible solutions to overcome present and future barriers.