Wednesday, July 09, 2008

St. Bernard Redevelopment Rumored To Be Halted

Sources tell me that the redevelopment of the St. Bernard public housing complex has come to a screeching halt due to the Louisiana Housing Finance Authority's (LHFA) inability to secure investors to purchase the tax credits allocated to finance the project. I'm hoping this is not the case even as I write this because if true, we have been misled in the most egregious manner by our city officials. As I recall it, the riotous city council meeting at which the council voted to unanimously approve demolition, they and Mayor Nagin assured us that demolition could not proceed until all stipulations of the provisos attached to the order allowing demolition were met; and I believe one of the provisos was that the developers had to first prove that financing had been secured.

The Times-Picayune reported that enough funding was in place to "launch" the 1st phase of construction.
"the Bayou District Foundation has secured $62 million through low-income tax credits and $27 million from federal block grant money. That's enough to launch the first phase of 465 apartments next year."
Then again, it's the T-P. These are the same people who fervently endorsed Jindal for governor. However, to their credit, the same article reports that many had doubts about the reality of getting people to invest in tax credits for such an ambitious project -- twice the scope of the Atlanta East Lake project after which the St. Bernard plans are modeled.

Another few key points:
The redevelopers of the St. Bernard, Columbia Residential, are closely tied to the allegations of corruption that directly led to HUD Secretary Alphonso's firing or resignation or whatever the feds called it. This was reported by the OB Rag Blog on December 27, 2007, mere days after the council's vote to demolish the projects:
A report today in the online publication Government Executive details mounting evidence from federal investigations linking HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson to scandals in New Orleans-including the demoliton contract for the St. Bernard public housing complex.
"the feds are going after Scott Keller, described as Jackson’s “right arm,” for his role in steering the St. Bernard demo contract towrds Colombia Residential, a company Jackson once worked for, and which still owes him hundreds of thousands of dollars."

In June 2006, Sec. Jackson put Keller in charge of HUD. “Keller was smack in the middle of the HANO decision to award the $127 million redevelopment to the team that included Columbia Residential to restore [sic] the St. Bernard public housing projects”

“Internal HANO records show that the Columbia Residential team barely won the evaluation, 68 points to 67.”
One more thing. I'm also told that Columbia has already been paid $9 million dollars for demolition (also reported on the OB Rag Blog) compared to the $4 million dollars the developers of the other 3 housing projects were paid for demolition.