Housing report reveals long road ahead

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 24, 2012



LAPLACE – A recent physical needs assessment conducted on the four public housing developments within the St. John the Baptist Parish Housing Authority showed the developments will need more than $9 million of work to bring them up to the current standard of living.

The assessment, conducted on housing units in LaPlace, Reserve, Garyville and Edgard, indicated that wear and tear over the past 40 years has left the interiors of some units in extremely poor condition and that all of the properties are in similar states of degradation.

The physical assessment in St. John, performed by Meyer Engineers, is part of a push to assess needs in housing developments across the country. More than 550 properties operated by 140 separate public housing authorities in 39 states are a part of the study, which started late last year.

The assessment found the exteriors of the buildings deteriorating with peeling paint, rotting wood, missing bricks and rusted steel stairwells. On the inside, kitchen counters were said to be in poor condition, cracks were seen in the shower, and bath tiles and some wall-hung lavatories are falling off the walls.

“Most of the bathroom fixtures were found to be leaky, creating wet environments for mold and mildew growth,” the assessment reads. “The flooring is cracked and delaminating. The walls are in terrible condition with poorly constructed patches, holes and damaged areas.”

Many of the units were also shown to have drafty and worn out windows with incorrectly hung insect screens, as well as worn out front and back doors, which have had numerous locks installed and uninstalled over their history.

Housing Authority Executive Director Trina Henderson said the report was sobering and offered several clues as to why the agency racked up a more than $170,000 water bill. She said the Housing Authority now needs to prioritize the projects to determine what needs to be taken on first.

“We certainly cannot go after everything all at once,” Henderson said. “We need to manage what we can manage and move forward as best we can.”

Henderson said the agency is still operating as troubled under the guidelines of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She said the St. John Housing Authority must have HUD approval for any expenditure before money can be released.

Most of the units within the St. John Housing Authority were built in the 1970s. There are 48 units in LaPlace, 43 in Reserve, 17 in Garyville and 15 in Edgard.