Finance Authority sets office plans
LAFAYETTE — A building that once served the area’s homeless will reopen early next year as the new offices of a different agency with a mission to improve access to affordable housing and finance public projects.
For the first time in its 33-year history, the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority will have its own administrative offices to oversee its work, which involves financing community projects, federal tax credit housing developments and homeowner assistance programs.
Last week, the Finance Authority’s volunteer trustees approved an administration plan to set up offices and hire a program services coordinator and clerical staff with a projected operating cost of $153,120. Currently, the Finance Authority’s administrative duties are performed by its general counsel and it meets in a conference room in the Lafayette Consolidated Government building.
The administration plan also includes another $250,000 to renovate a building formerly known as “The Well” into the Finance Authority’s offices. The Finance Authority purchased the building and several others as part of its $1.13 million acquisition of property near downtown owned by Acadiana Outreach Center, a nonprofit group that served those in recovery from addiction and homelessness.
The offices may be open by March 2013, but the new program coordinator will begin sooner, said John Arceneaux, chairman of the Finance Authority in an email Friday.
Because the Finance Authority’s programming has grown, someone is needed to manage the day-to-day operations of the organization, Arceneaux said.
“Right now, we have no paid employees or staff,” Arceneaux said.
The Finance Authority’s assets have grown from $15 million in 2004 to more than $28 million in 2011, according to information provided to the Lafayette Consolidated Council in July.
Some public projects financed by the Financing Authority includes $850,000 to the city of Lafayette for its Rosa Parks Multi-Modal Transportation Center; $875,000 to the city for the purchase of a former bank building for the Acadiana Center for the Arts; and $800,000 for the city to purchase the old federal courthouse downtown.
The Finance Authority has two housing developments: Cypress Trails Apartment for senior citizens and Uptown Lofts, still under construction on property acquired from Acadiana Outreach Center.
Another affordable housing project constructed on former Acadiana Outreach Center property will produce 15 loft-style apartments designed for artists.
That project preserves a historic warehouse building located on the acquired property and construction could begin at the end of the year with a possible resident move-in in July, said Greg Gachassin, the project’s developer.
The Finance Authority’s outreach also has home ownership programs. Those programs had been administered by Lafayette Consolidated Government, however, recent concerns about the government employees who were paid with federal grants working with programs with income eligibility requirements higher than federal requirements prompted a second look at its administration.
If the Finance Authority lowered its income eligibility requirements, about 80 percent of its current clients would have been cut out of the program, Arceneaux said.
Since 1998, its first-time homebuyer’s program closed 1,132 loans which totaled nearly $7 million and as of July 1, there were 744 active loans that totaled nearly $4 million, according to Finance Authority. The Finance Authority has contributed $3.4 million to the program.
Its second homeowner program is for low- and moderate-income residents. Since 1979, more than $268 million in single-family revenue bonds have been issued and, in the past five years, the program has helped 582 families purchase homes in Lafayette, according to the authority.
The coordinator will take over the programs’ administration and that transition will likely happen by the end of the year, Arceneaux said in an email Friday.
More projects overseen by the Finance Authority are down the road as it completes a master plan process for the development of about three acres formerly owned by Acadiana Outreach Center. The property is located in a neighborhood near downtown known as Mills Addition or LaPlace.
“Because the neighborhood is trying to rebuild itself, there needs to be some ownership there,” Oubre told Finance Authority trustees at their meeting last week.
An open-air farmers’ market and a public were also desired by neighbors, he said.