Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October 15, 2008

Christina Stephens

Recovery Authority
Louisiana Recovery Authority Moves Forward on Planning for Recovery Funding for Gustav, Ike

Board approves disposition plans for thousands of Louisiana Land Trust properties

BATON ROUGE, La. - The board of the Louisiana Recovery Authority today voted to approve a preliminary plan outlining the concept for spending anticipated federal funds for recovery from hurricanes Gustav and Ike, directing LRA and Office of Community Development staff to seek input from local leaders and write a full plan to take back to the board in November and for federally required public comment.
The plan would allocate pools of funds to parishes for infrastructure and housing repair programs to be administered with local discretion and state oversight.
"Today's action starts the ball rolling on Louisiana's plan for recovering from Gustav and Ike, one which focuses on letting local governments set priorities for housing and infrastructure repair," said David Voelker, chairman of the LRA's board. "The next few weeks will focus on discussions with local leaders and input from the public that will refine our approach to ensuring that Louisiana rebuilds safer and stronger than before."
Click here to view the preliminary draft of Louisiana's plan.
The state of Louisiana will dedicate its allocation of federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds allocated for recovery from hurricanes Gustav and Ike to repair damaged housing and infrastructure, elevate and buy-out flooded homes and address unmet economic development, agriculture and fisheries needs. The plan will also include the possible use of funds for hurricane protection systems in coastal areas.
For infrastructure and housing programs, the state will allocate dollars to each affected parish based on its level of damage to housing and infrastructure according to data from federal, state and local agencies. Using this allocation, the parishes will determine which housing and infrastructure options they wish to pursue, based on local priorities for recovery, and then submit a plan to the state for approval.
"The state's top recovery priorities are repairing homes lost in the storms and rebuilding our damaged infrastructure to a safer standard," said LRA Deputy Director Robin Keegan. "But each of our parishes faces unique circumstances after the storms and our people will be best served by programs that account for these factors. So we will present a 'menu' of options for how parishes can address housing and infrastructure damage and allow local leaders to select a combination of programs and administer them locally, rather than out of central offices in Baton Rouge."
Preliminary damage estimates from Gustav and Ike in Louisiana show:
Approximately 12,000 homes flooded;
Agricultural losses total approximately $750 million;
Infrastructure damages total more than $1 billion;
Homes suffering some level of damage total 150,000 to 300,000;
K-12 and secondary educational facilities received $100-$150 million in damages; and
Business losses total approximately $2.5-$5 billion.
Louisiana anticipates that its damage level could garner the state as much as $1 billion in CDBG funding for the disasters. Congress approved the funds last month in a disaster relief measure signed by President Bush on September 30, 2008. The bill gives HUD until November 30, 2008, to push one third of the money to the states.
To use CDBG funds, the state first must publish an Action Plan outlining the use of the funds. The board's vote today allows LRA staff to design programs that fit within the preliminary plan, publish the Action Plan for public comment and then return it for approval by the LRA's board in November.
The board heard updates from officials from Cameron and Terrebonne parishes at its meeting today. In addition, LRA staff will meet with parish leaders to discuss the state's planned CDBG programs and incorporate this input into the Action Plan that is ultimately brought back to the board for approval.
Staff will present the Action Plan to the board in November to go to public comment and then send it to HUD in December after legislative approval. Subsequent programs and programmatic changes that HUD deems major must be approved as "Action Plan Amendments" through the same process.
Louisiana Land Trust plans
In other action, the board approved Louisiana Land Trust property disposition plans for Cameron, St. Bernard and Terrebonne parishes, which account for more than 3,500 of the properties owned by the organization. The LLT is the entity that temporarily holds, maintains and insures properties the state purchases through the Road Home when homeowners select "option 2" or "option 3" under the program. The LRA board must approve parish plans for using the properties before their titles can be transferred to the parishes for redevelopment.
As of the end of September, the LLT owned 8,701 such properties, including 89 in Cameron parish, 3,873 in St. Bernard parish and 36 in Terrebonne parish.
Cameron Parish has identified parcels of land it will use for the purpose "of enhancing economic development, providing housing, preserving recreation/open space and ancillary initiatives." The remaining properties the parish will offer the previous owners the right of first refusal. After the 10-day response period, properties will be offered to adjacent property owners through a "Lot Next Door" style program. If there is no interest by adjacent property owners the property will be sold by public auction.
St. Bernard Parish will dispose of properties using five strategies:
meeting public purpose use related to green space, recreation and draining;
sale to adjacent property owners (Lot Next Door);
meeting community identified neighborhood development priorities;
preserving the historic character of the Friscoville/Arabi area; and
sale to private entity for the development of new and affordable housing.
Terrebonne Parish is working to identify parcels whose reuse will address parish needs for:
public improvements and public facilities;
flood management;
workforce and elderly housing;
enhancing neighborhood;
stability (Lot Next Door); and
green space and spaces of ecological value.
The board had previously approved plans for Orleans and Jefferson parishes. The state received final approval on its plans from HUD in September. The state is completing federally required environmental reviews on LLT properties and signing cooperative endeavor agreements with the parishes in preparation for transferring titles for the properties to the parishes.


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