Gretna — Elderly and disabled Jefferson Parish residents looking to make home improvements could soon receive some free assistance thanks to a new program announced by Jefferson Parish President John Young on Wednesday.
Young unveiled the “Jefferson Joining Forces” program at the Parish Council meeting and dubbed it an innovative public-private partnership designed to help those in need while improving the parish’s housing stock. The program will provide professional renovations to the homes of elderly and disabled residents who can’t afford to make repairs on their own.
“This would create a win-win,” Young told the council, noting that it will definitely improve the quality of life in the parish.
The program brings together the Homebuilders Association of Greater New Orleans, the parish Department of Inspection and Code Enforcement and the parish Office of Community Development.
Code enforcement’s role will be in identifying those homes that have been cited for blight issues, while the homebuilders association will provide the labor and expertise to make the repairs. Finally, community development will be supplying about $450,000 in funding, said Anatole Thompson, the director of the community development department.
Thompson said that Young challenged her to find a way to help more of the parish’s residents. In addition, the council has asked Thompson to make improving the condition of owner-occupied homes a priority. While abandoned and blighted properties remain a problem in the Jefferson Parish, an equally troubling issue is those homes that need improvement where the homeowners cannot afford to do the work.
Those homes are often cited for violations, which can then result in liens against the title if the citations remain unpaid. Thompson said the new program satisfies the wishes of both Young and the council through a creative means. In order to qualify for the program, residents must meet household income requirements set by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“We’re all very excited about this program,” she said.
Jon Luther, the executive vice president of the homebuilders association, said the group is undertaking the program as part of its nonprofit foundation,the New Orleans Education League of the Construction Industry. Luther said that as soon as the 900-member organization heard about the program, it was obvious it fit perfectly with their existing efforts in the community.
“It made so much sense for us,” said Luther, who promised all of the repairs will be top notch. “We bring a lot of expertise.”
Not only will the association’s members be donating labor, but they plan to use the projects to provide hands-on experience for youth participating in the group’s Operation Reconstruction program. That program provides construction experience to young people interested in pursuing a career in the field.
Luther also expects to receive donations from suppliers affiliated with the organization to offset some of the materials costs.