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Ground broken on Opelousas Heights, a pilot home ownership program

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Posted at 2:11 PM, Aug 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-07 15:34:12-04

Ground was borken this morning on a new project in Opelousas.

The Housing Authority of the City of Opelousas broke ground on Opelousas Heights, a subdivision at the intersection of Statesman Street and La. 3043. The project is a unique public/private partnership that comes after years of planning, officials say. If it is successful, it will be used as a template for future programs.

The Housing Authority created a non-profit, Opelousas Heights Inc., which will help residents move toward home ownership. The new forty (40) home subdivision will contain several different floorplans and home styles, playground, pond, and even a reception hall.

Housing Authority officials say they owe thanks to State Senator Eric LaFleur, State Senator Gerald Boudreaux, and State Representative Dustin Miller, who helped the program secure $1.2 million in funding for the neighborhood's infrastructure.

The homes will be available for purchase only by residents of Opelousas Housing Authority. In order to become qualified, residents must participate in an in-house program including credit counseling, savings skills and other topics.

"Public housing was intended as a temporary stop and in some instances, it has became a way of life, because there was not a vehicle readily available for people to move from a rental situation to a home ownership situation and a transition that educated them along the way," explains Joseph Pitre, deputy director.

Now, the authority starts with the intake process to talk to residents about home ownership.

"We are talking about home ownership from the day they come in, and offer programs for them to participate in to get credit-worthy if they're not, about financial management, how to reconcile their checkbook," he said.

One size doesn't fit all, but Pitre says the aim is to get residents ready for buying a home.

This project helps first-time homeowners with downpayment and closing costs, he said.

The development rules are very strict. It's being designed by Architects Southwest, the same firm that designed River Ranch, and will have standards regarding building materials. There will be no rentals, only homeowners, and "that's etched in stone," Pitre said.

"This is the first one, but our intent is to complete the cycle. The cycle from the time they move in, preparation to move out to home ownership," Pitre said. "Some won't qualify, particularly the older people, but for younger people coming in, it's about reducing the size of government."

The next step at the neighborhood will be infrastructure, and they're hoping the first home will be ready for residency in 2020.