The East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority is racing to meet a Sept. 30 deadline to participate in the Louisiana Recovery Authority’s “Louisiana Cottages” housing program. EBRRA President Walter Monsour says his agency, a relatively new body with only three employees counting Monsour, is unlikely to meet the deadline unless it is extended. The Alternative Housing Pilot Program, administered by the Louisiana Recovery Authority and paid for by FEMA, was created after hurricanes Katrina and Rita to build post-disaster housing for people in need. The EBRRA hopes to acquire titles on a number of lots in the next 30 to 60 days to even have a chance to get in on the program.
In other news discussed at today’s EBRRA meeting:
—The authority has selected a “test batch” of 11 adjudicated properties throughout the parish to bring to district court to test the new streamlined process to gain titles. All of the properties have been seized for nonpayment of taxes and held for more than a decade. Eventually, the EBRRA hopes to be able to clear title on dozens or hundreds of properties at a time. The EBRRA will need agreements with at least a dozen taxing bodies that lay claim to the properties, but Monsour says the prospect of converting the properties to productive uses will benefit everyone involved. “We’re going to make them an offer they can’t refuse,” Monsour says.
—The Metro Council has appropriated $50,000 to hire a private firm, the Tax Advantage Group, to go after as much as $100 million from the U.S. Treasury’s New Market Tax Credits Program. If the firm is successful, the EBRRA and the city-parish would form a for-profit Community Development Entity that could subsidize up to 39% of the cost of a project in a low-income area. The EBRRA’s board would be the new entity’s board.
—The EBRRA also has applied for $2 million from the Louisiana Neighborhood Stabilization Program, $2.5 million in Hurricane Gustav recovery funds from the LRA, and $3 million in community development money, also from the LRA. All of which would be big money for an agency that has largely relied on the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, the Center for Planning Excellence and the city-parish up to this point. “We began our work flat broke,” EBRRA board chair John Noland says.