Public housing

Search for social housing continues as demolition plans advance – The Observer

LAPLACE — The St. John Parish Housing Authority continues its search for homes for displaced families as plans advance for the demolition of old compounds across the parish.

The impact of Hurricane Ida has exacerbated the need for housing. Of 39 families displaced by Hurricane Ida, 19 have been successfully housed, Housing Authority executive director Trina Sanders reported this week at a meeting in Edgard.

Sanders said 16 households continue to search for housing. One household opted out of the scheme, and the Housing Authority was unable to reach the remaining two households due to outdated contact details on file.

The availability of affordable housing is an ongoing concern in the parish of St. John, and Sanders hopes to inspire more landlords to partner with the Housing Authority moving forward.

The Housing Authority is seeking a waiver from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that would increase the payment standard from 100% of fair market value to 120% of fair market value until December 31, 2022.

This measure would not increase tenants’ costs, but it would allow landlords to collect more rent. For example, a landlord currently collecting $1,000 fair market value rent would receive $1,200 if the payment standard was increased.

“The Housing Authority absorbs the cost. Owners receive more funds. I see no reason why HUD wouldn’t grant it. It’s a win-win situation for our residents as well as our landlords who partner with us to provide affordable housing,” Sanders said.

She added: ‘Because of the calculations, it may even reduce the tenants’ share of the rent, and that’s what we seek to do.’

Due to the circumstances surrounding Hurricane Ida, the Housing Authority is also seeking HUD’s approval to seek housing voucher extensions through December 31, 2022.

According to St. John Housing Supervisor Stacy August, vouchers normally last for an initial 60 days and can be extended for an additional 60 days upon request. The extension request process was dropped as a result of Ida.

“Because of the storm, we’re past 120 days and are currently at 180,” August said. “The purpose of the checks is to give them the opportunity to find accommodation.”

The Housing Authority will delay the reopening of the social housing waiting list so that more time can be spent helping current participants and getting the office back in order.

The devastation of Hurricane Ida coincides with the demolition of public housing complexes in LaPlace, Edgard and Garyville.

Residents may have heard gunshots this week as the St. John’s Parish Sheriff’s Office SWAT team staged an advanced breaching course using vacant public housing complexes.

Sanders said the reduction of the LaPlace complex has been underway since Jan. 17, 2022. Demolition in Garyville was scheduled to begin the week of Jan. 31, but had to be pushed back due to issues with utility shutdowns. The demolition will continue once the depollution is completed on the LaPlace site.

At the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners meeting this week, a builder asked for the opportunity to inspect the plumbing and judge whether repairs are possible instead of demolition.

Sanders said the demolition of the complexes was already under a binding contract. According to Sanders, the demolition is the culmination of a process that began in 2014.

While the Housing Authority previously identified 30 units for rehabilitation using federal dollars, only nine of the 30 units passed environmental clearances.

Units that have been gutted to the gudgeon have still not passed environmental clearances. Meanwhile, the nine units that were cleared for renovation had to be closed two months later due to collapsing plumbing.

“It’s not about laying plasterboard. These buildings are 60 years old. You have asbestos in the ground. You have to be careful how you deal with this. This is currently being done at the LaPlace site,” Sanders said. “Before any approval by the federal government for demolition, there is a cumbersome process. According to the studies in which we have invested, these dwellings are not suitable for habitation. That’s why we’ve done everything in our power to encourage residents to take advantage of the Section 8 vouchers we offer. »

Moving forward, Sanders began establishing a scope of work to lead the revitalization of affordable housing in St. John’s Parish. She said the process will require input from community stakeholders.
The Housing Authority Board of Commissioners is due to meet with the Parish Council to discuss current public housing challenges and goals. The meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 3 at the Parish Government Complex.