Covering Louisiana

Mar 17, 2011 1:59 PM by Press Release

Governor Jindal Announces Streamlining of State Housing Agencies

BATON ROUGE - Today, Governor Bobby Jindal announced an effort to reform and streamline the state's disparate housing agencies, including the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency (LHFA), into one streamlined Louisiana Housing Corporation that would oversee all housing funds in the state, uniting almost 30 separate programs currently managed by five organizations.

Billions in federal and state dollars flow through many different agencies in Louisiana, including the LHFA, the Office of Community Development's Disaster Recovery Unit, the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), along with many other programs that plan, fund and monitor home ownership, homelessness prevention, rental assistance, and even housing related child care. The Jindal administration will support legislation by Senator Neil Riser and House Speaker Jim Tucker in the upcoming Legislative Session, which will create the Louisiana Housing Corporation.

Governor Jindal said, "Where reform is required, bold leadership is demanded. We know we can do a better job of providing housing assistance for our people by consolidating and coordinating the bureaucracy currently costing us too much at the state and federal level. Today, many of these state agencies act independently of each other with little coordination, which limits the effectiveness of the investments we make in all these different housing programs and causes inefficiency, duplication of effort and waste of taxpayer resources.""By supporting this legislation to create the Louisiana Housing Corporation, we will help developers better access capital and offer affordable housing options to Louisiana residents in need of safe homes for their families," Governor Jindal said. "We are long overdue in establishing a consolidated and focused strategy to coordinate our state housing programs, which will potentially save millions of taxpayer dollars while helping public and private housing agencies provide more effective services to our people."

Louisiana has almost 30 housing-related programs managed across five different organizations, all with a shared purpose of providing safe and affordable housing. These agencies currently employ more than 300 employees - more than 100 earning more than $60,000 a year - and this staff serves overlapping functions. Creating a new, unified Louisiana Home Corporation will include the reductions of staffing needs and elimination of multiple boards, while better identifying housing needs and developing policies and plans to meet those needs around the state.

House Speaker Jim Tucker said, "A statewide coordinated housing plan has been sorely needed for some time. Coordinating the myriad of housing programs and agencies across this state will help focus the state's efforts in providing quality homeownership, rental and recovery initiatives."

Senator Neil Riser said, "Reforming Louisiana's many housing initiatives into one unified agency will help better serve our families in need of safe, sustainable housing and those developers looking to leverage private capital to create opportunities for these residents, while also increasing government efficiency and saving Louisiana's taxpayers money."

Representative Jim Fannin said, "With economic times as tough as they are, it is important that we continue to seek consolidation where it makes sense, and the consolidation of staff with the LHFA and the Disaster Recovery Unit's housing staff makes sense."

Specifically, the corporation will be comprised of the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency and Louisiana Land Trust, as well as the following programs in the Office of Community Development: Small Rental Property Repair Program, Gustav and Ike Affordable Housing, LIHTC Piggyback Program and the Permanent Supportive Housing voucher program. Additional programs within DHH and DCFS will be assessed for inclusion into the corporation, including the Emergency Shelter Grants Programs and the Rapid Re-housing Program.Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater said, "It has become readily apparent over the past several years that an unfocused, haphazard approach to housing does not serve our communities and our taxpayers well. This long overdue reform and the creation of the Louisiana Housing Corporation will allow the state to better coordinate assistance for families most in need and create a one-stop shop for developers looking to access available funding and incentives, all while increasing efficiency and saving taxpayers money."

DCFS Secretary Ruth Johnson said "DCFS has spent the past year realigning and modernizing its business practices in order to better serve the people of Louisiana. This move to coordinate and consolidate services that provide our citizens with the most basic of needs - a roof over their heads - is the latest step to more effectively use resources to help Louisiana's homeless find assistance and begin down the path to self-sufficiency."

DHH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein said, "We are committed to developing an innovative approach to connecting people to one of their most basic needs. The Louisiana Housing Corporation will move our state toward a single entry point for housing services, supporting the specialized needs of the very vulnerable people we serve. We look forward to working with the Corporation on this collaborative."

W. Todd Little, President of the Louisiana Association of Affordable Housing Providers said, "The Louisiana Association of Affordable Housing Providers looks forward to working with Governor Jindal and the state Legislature towards a comprehensive affordable housing policy to address the needs of Louisianans. We are hopeful that streamlined state government will lead to more effective and efficient allocation of scarce housing resources."

The "Corporation" will be governed by a nine-member board, including: A designee by the Governor, The Treasurer or designee, President of the Senate or designee, Speaker of the House or designee, and five other gubernatorial appointments. The corporation will fall under the requirements of Tier 2 ethics reporting and disclosure.

During a six to 12 month transition, the "Louisiana Home Corporation" will reside within the Division of Administration. This transition will be managed by a transition committee composed of the Commissioner of Administration, the Speaker of the House, and the President of the Senate. This transition period will allow for continuity of program operations and funding as well as identification of appropriate staffing levels and management of staff transition.

This new, unified approach to Louisiana's housing needs will allow the state to better attract and leverage private capital in the credit markets, ensure that those citizens positioned for home ownership also have access to opportunities to make this a reality, ensure that safe and affordable rental options are available for those who need it and develop policies focused on providing support that is financially sustainable for families by balancing low-income lending against risks to borrowers and taxpayers.

The unified structure for housing programs will also streamline operations, ensuring that all programs operate within a high level of accountability, all programs operate within budget and limit risks to homeowners and taxpayers, policies encourage sustainable housing and that federal and state laws are administered consistently.

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