St. John Parish Housing Authority upgrading

Published 11:45 pm Friday, October 10, 2014

By Monique Roth

LAPLACE — The St. John the Baptist Parish Housing Authority is in the process of evaluating Request for Qualifications from developers, a process Executive Director Trina Henderson said will take two weeks.

Henderson said RFQs closed Wednesday, after starting the solicitation Aug. 20 of top developers from across the country to implement a comprehensive rehabilitation and redevelopment program for the Authority’s existing public housing portfolio.

Henderson said this is the first step in securing an improved public housing system for the parish.

“This is truly the first step in providing our residents with a public housing system that they need and deserve,” Henderson said. “Together with (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), our board and staff … will continue to enhance the quality of life for our residents and build a public housing system that we can all be proud of.”

Henderson said each of the four public housing communities — located in LaPlace, Reserve, Edgard and Garyville — would be assessed by the eventual chosen developer to determine if the community was a candidate for thorough renovations or a complete redevelopment, either at its current location or somewhere else.

The contractor will give the Authority “a game plan on how to address each community,” Henderson said.

She said New Orleans residential housing complex Columbia Parc, the former site of the St. Bernard Housing Development, inspired the Authority.

President Barack Obama and other top officials have heralded Columbia Parc as a symbol of recovery and a national model for public housing, and Henderson said the Authority aims to do the same with its public housing portfolio, providing aesthetically-pleasing buildings and “a total sense of community” to its residents.

Other efforts to improve the public communities continue, Henderson said.

To ensure all units meet and exceed HUD standards, she said the Authority conducts annual Uniformed Physical Condition Standards inspections on all of its properties to ensure all citizens are residing in clean and safe units.

“We embrace HUD’s mission to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all and will do our part to ensure this mission is carried out by the agency,” Iona Holloway, board chair of the Authority, said.

Over the past year, Henderson said the Authority has dedicated resources to increase resident safety.

She said the Authority partnered with screening company, First Advantage, to complete background checks on all public housing program participants and individuals 18 and up.

She said the agency now also has a system in place to complete background checks with new move-ins for individuals 18 and up, as well as residents who turn 18.

Henderson said future plans for the rehabilitation and possible redevelopment of the Authority housing stock, as well the security efforts, are two steps aimed at further cementing the agency’s commitment to enhancing the quality of life for its residents.