We talked about this crazy project back in February, and what a strange idea it is to put state dollars behind low-income housing in prime real estate areas. But for whatever reason, The Powers That Be – or most of them – think it’s swell.
Which is why yesterday the Louisiana Housing Corporation voted 10-1 to back a $33 million renovation of a Canal Street office building in New Orleans to provide government-subsidized housing for senior citizens at a lavish price of $329 a square foot.
From a press release out of the one dissident’s office…
Yesterday at the regular meeting of the newly formed Louisiana Housing Corporation (LHC), board member and State Treasurer John Kennedy was the sole vote against a housing issue from the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) costing Louisiana taxpayers $329 per square foot.
“I’m disappointed that the board took this action today,” says Treasurer Kennedy. “The reason Governor Jindal created the LHC was to steer statewide housing policy in a new direction that is in the best interest of the taxpayers of Louisiana. I’m concerned by the vote today that we are not getting off on the right foot.”
Part of the “Iberville Project”, the proposal will redevelop the 17-story New Orleans Texaco Building at 1501 Canal St. that has been vacant for 15 years. The project will cost taxpayers $33,252,033 and only build 112 900 sq. ft. apartments for low-income seniors in New Orleans, at a cost of roughly $300,000 per apartment, or $329 per sq. ft.
Treasurer Kennedy offered a substitute motion that would have approved the project subject to a 20% reduction in the price of the project. The motion was soundly defeated.
“I think it is absurd to spend $329 a square foot. It’s a huge waste of taxpayer money. That’s more than the cost per square foot of the finest home in the Country Club of Louisiana or English Turn subdivisions. For that amount, we could provide 3½ times more housing for our seniors and address blighted properties in New Orleans at the same time,” says Treasurer Kennedy. “I don’t think the board should set this precedent of not demanding efficient use of our tax dollars.”
The LHC was formed by the Jindal administration in 2011 to provide policy and oversight for state housing programs after its previous incarnation, the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency, was roundly criticized for lack of clear policy, interagency coordination and inefficient spending choices during the recovery from the hurricanes.
“I’m hoping this new board’s vote today is not a sign that we are going back to the old days of allowing costs for housing issues to spiral out of control and justify it because it’s ‘federal money,'” says Treasurer Kennedy. “I have news for everybody – ‘federal money’ is still money that comes out of the pockets of the Louisiana taxpayers. It should be treated with the same care and diligence as state tax dollars. The time to stand up for taxpayers is now.”