Gov. Bobby Jindal’s efforts to consolidate the state’s housing programs got under way Thursday with a meeting to set the reorganization in motion.
For more than an hour, the Louisiana Housing Corporation Transition Committee discussed the technical details of unifying dozens of programs.
The committee elected officers, set up subcommittees and agreed to meet again in August.
State Sen. Lydia Jackson, D-Shreveport, said she wants the public to have a clear idea of which programs are being consolidated under the umbrella of the Louisiana Housing Corp.
“We certainly should have some opportunity for public input at each of our meetings,” she said.
The consolidation will involve the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency and programs at the Office of Community Development, as well as housing programs at the state Department of Health and Hospitals and the state Department of Children and Family Services.
Programs focusing on rental property, first-time homebuyers, contaminated drywall and emergency shelters will be swept into the newly created Louisiana Housing Corporation.
Jindal contends the consolidation is necessary to save money and eliminate inefficiency.
The committee discussed traveling around the state to conduct “road shows” on the changes.
“We need to have a hard timeline,” said House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown.
Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater said the committee can hold another transition meeting in August to solidify plans.
The transition stems from Act No. 408.
The legislation abolished the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency and the Louisiana Land Trust and transferred housing programs to the new corporation.
An 11-member board will govern the corporation.
The proposal was part of the governor’s legislative package.
The Legislative Fiscal Office predicted that the consolidation will result in staff reductions.
The biggest employer is the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency with 133 full-time positions and its headquarters in Baton Rouge.
Alesia Y. Wilkins-Braxton, acting president of the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency, said the office also employs student workers.
Wilkins-Braxton said the agency strives to provide safe, affordable, energy efficient housing through grants.
In addition to dealing with organizational duties, the committee got a summary of the state’s current housing programs.
Tucker questioned whether $52 million allocated for Orleans Parish for a “soft” second mortgage program has been placed in the hands of homeowners.
“My office has had several calls about this,” he said.
The program forgives a portion of the second mortgage.
Pat Forbes with the Division of Administration said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration is taking control of the program.