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Amid push for more storm-resilient builds, $11M affordable housing community opens in Lafourche

Kezia Setyawan
The 35-unit affordable resilient housing complex known as Les Maisons de Bayou Lafourche in Lockport.

An $11 million, storm-resilient affordable housing community in Lafourche Parish, a first of its kind in a community that has been significantly impacted by intense storms over the last several years, was celebrated by local and state leaders for its official completion on Wednesday.

Those officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the nine-acre, 35-unit complex known as Les Maisons de Bayou Lafourche. The new housing community in Lockport, on which construction began in August 2020 by developer Gulf Coast Housing Partnership, already had a chance to prove its durability to Louisiana weather before construction even finished.

Construction was more than 90% complete when Hurricane Ida made landfall last year in August. The development suffered minimal damage compared to the destruction reported in the rest of the parish.

The resiliency features on the property include paperless drywall to help mitigate mold in the event of a flood, underground electric power so that poles aren’t blown down during a storm, and small waves built in the landscape that are designed to detain water and mitigate flooding downstream, according to project manager Will Bowling.

Kezia Setyawan
Gulf Coast Housing Partnership project manager Will Bowling delivers remarks at Maisons de Bayou Lafourche.

“We hope that Les Maisons’ storm resiliency points to a path forward,” Bowling said. “While we cannot control the weather, we hope that this development might provide families with more control over their ability to return quickly and safely after severe storms,” Bowling said.

Les Maisons de Bayou Lafourche developed as a result of Louisiana's Strategic Adaptations for the Future Environments program, LA SAFE, launched by Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2017. With input from residents, LA SAFE’s goal was to create projects in anticipation of coastal land loss and increasing flood risk.

Through the LA SAFE project, Lafourche residents pointed out the need for affordable housing in the northern part of the parish where future projected flood risk remains low. The Office of Community Development and Louisiana Housing Corporation awarded $7 million in Community Development Block Grant-National Disaster Resilience funds to Gulf Coast Housing Partnership to develop the housing community, with the rest financed by other banks.

Louisiana Housing Corporation executive director Joshua Hollins said that the project combined the need to address low-to-moderate-income families with quality housing.

“That's very important for us — those two things are not separate. We can have quality, affordable housing with resiliency standards, and make sure that we are still able to provide that to low-to-moderate-income families,” Hollins said.

Les Maisons is made up of one, two and three bedroom units. Of the 35 units, 28 are designated for families at 50% to 60% of area median income; the other six units are leased at market rate, and there’s lastly an on-site manager’s unit.

Five units are designed for people with mobility impairments, and three units are equipped for residents with sensory impairments. The development also includes residency preferences for veterans, individuals with disabilities and seniors.

Kezia Setyawan
Ribbon cutting led by stakeholders at Les Maisons de Bayou Lafourche on June 1.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, local officials, stakeholders and residents joined in the community pavilion for refreshments.

One Les Maisons resident, 77-year-old Darlene Verdin, said that she’s lived in Lafourche Parish for over 40 years. She was displaced from her home she rented for the last 10 years due to damage caused by Hurricane Ida and was told to apply to the new housing community at her church. She was able to move into the community last November.

She’s impressed by how resilient the complex has held up during and after Hurricane Ida.

“I've lived through a lot of hurricanes down in the bayou here. Most of all the other larger complexes are still closed,” Verdin said. “This one is not, and I'm very impressed with the minimal damage that happened to this place.”

The Louisiana Housing Corporation is working on 14 other resilient affordable housing projects statewide that require similar resiliency standards with most developments aiming to be complete by the end of this year or early 2023. There are about 1,233 units expected to be built.

Kezia Setyawan is a coastal reporter for WWNO and WRKF and is based out of Houma.

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