LAFAYETTE — Financial problems at Acadiana Outreach Center have led the nonprofit group to seek another sponsor for its planned affordable housing development and consider the sale of its downtown area properties.
On Tuesday, AOC board member Bo Billeaud asked the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority to consider taking over its interest in its Joie de Vivre urban housing development and placed AOC-owned properties on the negotiating table.
The financing authority is a public board that finances affordable housing developments and other public projects.
The authority voted Tuesday to allow its chairman and attorney to explore both options.
Financing authority chairman John Arceneaux said the group would reconvene later to make a final decision on the Joie de Vivre sponsorship and on potential acquisition of any AOC assets.
A new sponsor for Joie de Vivre is needed for the project to move forward, Billeaud said.
The majority of the financing for the Joie de Vivre project is from the sale of affordable housing federal tax credits. Though buyers for the credits have been identified, they requested that the project be backed by a “financially viable organization,” Billeaud said.
Billeaud told the financing authority that the nonprofit group’s last executive director was “very ineffective” and left the organization in “dire straits.”
The nonprofit group provides assistance to those in recovery from addiction and/or homelessness and has a campus near downtown along Second Street. The group’s financial woes unfurled publicly this summer after it announced the opening — then subsequent closure of its new treatment center in Abbeville. The new center was not financially viable, Billeaud said.
The future of the project is uncertain if the financing authority decides not to assume sponsorship, Billeaud said after Tuesday’s meeting.
The Acadiana Outreach Center owns several properties in the downtown vicinity including an administrative building, warehouses and houses that are used as part of its transitional housing program.
Billeaud said the nonprofit group is willing to negotiate with the financing authority on all of its properties, except the Lighthouse Shelter for Women and Children — which is near University Avenue.
“The Lighthouse is not for sale. Everything else is negotiable,” Billeaud said following Tuesday’s meeting.
Billeaud said the nonprofit group is still providing its services to the community and has no plan at this time to “shut down facilities.”
“We’re still in a bind. We need to fix ourselves,” he said following the meeting.
The Joie de Vivre development is planned adjacent to the Acadiana Outreach Center’s downtown campus along Second Street and includes about 70 apartments reserved for residents with incomes between $24,540 to $34,980, depending upon family size, according to the project’s website.
Plans for the Joie de Vivre complex also included a day-care center, community and fitness center and retail shops.
After the project received its final permit approvals in late July, the project’s development manager Greg Gachassin said construction would begin in September, pending the tax credit sale.
The project has been opposed by some of its neighbors who in July told the Lafayette Consolidated Council they were concerned about increased traffic, parking issues and crime and drug activity that the project would create for the neighborhood.
The financing authority has invested money in the neighborhood and the Joie de Vivre project. It approved a loan to AOC for land purchases for the project and provided up to $400,000 in financing over the next five years for a University of Louisiana at Lafayette urban infill sustainable “green” housing project.
The financing authority and AOC also share the same development manager. Gachassin, who is also a former Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority chairman, is development manager of the financing authority’s own affordable housing development for seniors — Cypress Trails — off of Moss Street.