Housing resources shared with St. John Parish Council

Published 4:11 pm Saturday, June 17, 2023

LAPLACE — Resources are available to help local families bridge the gap to homeownership, according to Paula Pete, director of Housing for Family Resources of New Orleans.

In recognition of National Home Ownership Month, Pete gave a presentation before the St. John the Baptist Parish Council during this week’s meeting in LaPlace, highlighting programs and funding offered through the state.

For the past 25 years, the Family Resources of New Orleans nonprofit has empowered families to become self-sufficient by promoting affordable housing, rebuilding sustainable communities, and fostering economic well-being. After Hurricane Katrina, a separate office opened to serve St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes.

“We’ve worked in basically every rural parish in the southeast region, and we’ve just moved into Lafourche,” Pete said.

Pointing to Census statistics, Pete said housing is key to mitigating the effects of a declining population in St. John Parish.

The population dropped from 42,355 in July 2020 to an estimated 39,864 by July 2022, representing a population loss of 5% in 24 months. The population in St. John Parish has shrunk 7.7% compared to Census data in 2010, compared to an overall growth in population of 7.3% across the United States in the same timeframe.

Hurricane Ida greatly impacted population change over the past two years, revealing a need for more resilient housing.

“We know that we cannot continue to build, survive in this community with the type of houses that cannot withstand the climate,” Pete said. “We’ve come up with different products we need to be using in this area. We’re talking about structure insulated panels, container homes, modular homes, and there’s a new one called 3-D print that prints out the home using cement that is stronger and can withstand hurricane winds and water.”

Pete also provided information about the Restore Louisiana Homeowner Assistance Program, which provides grant funding for home repair or reconstruction related to Hurricane Ida, or reimbursement for repairs already completed. The intake process begins by completing a survey online at restore.la.gov or in person from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the following dates: June 26 / July 10,13,17,20,24,27 at REGALA Gym in Reserve or June 27/July 13,20,27 at the Roland Borne Sr. Memorial Library in Edgard.

According to Pete, Louisiana’s Office of Community Development is accepting public comments on an action plan amendment to spend an additional $831 million on storm recovery, adding to HUD’s previous allocation of $1.27 billion. After the public comment period ends at 5 p.m. July 6, the state will submit a plan to HUD for approval, which will allow funding to be used for not only the Restore Louisiana program, but also: affordable rental and homeless prevention programs, economic recovery and revitalization programs, infrastructure assistance, and mitigation investments to improve resilience.

Other programs available include housing repair loans and grants for the elderly and 4% interest rates on 30-year loans to incentivize low-income families to remain in the parish.

Councilman Warren “Bosco” Torres reported that successions are the biggest roadblock to homeownership he has seen in his district. Pete said free legal service programs are offered through the state to resolve title issues.

Councilwoman Tammy Houston was pleased to hear about the resources available, and she sees a new era for housing on the horizon with the recent hiring of Jarrette Tuircuit as the St. John Parish Housing Authority director.

“With you and him, a new energy, I think we will be able to fill the needs,” she said.