Bywater scattered sites graphic _lowres

The Housing Authority of New Orleans has negotiated a contract for 18 scattered sites in and around Bywater with a developer

Dan Swenson

The board that governs the Housing Authority of New Orleans has approved the development of 160 new housing units at 18 sites in the Bywater and Marigny neighborhoods, twice as many units as originally planned, agency officials said Monday.

HANO recently asked its Houston-based developer for the project, ITEX Group, to double the total in response to what housing advocates have described as a crisis of affordable housing in New Orleans, especially in gentrifying areas. 

The Bywater and Marigny project is HANO’s first major redevelopment of its so-called “scattered site” properties — typically small apartment buildings with fewer than a dozen units — under Executive Director Gregg Fortner, who took over in 2014.

All of the Bywater and Marigny properties are vacant.   

The plan represents a departure from what was envisioned by Fortner’s predecessor, David Gilmore, who managed the long-troubled agency while it was under federal receivership and who planned to sell the scattered-site properties. 

Instead, after Fortner arrived, HANO identified a list of 20 firms that could potentially redevelop one or more of the Bywater and Marigny sites. When it put the project out to bid in August 2015, ITEX and six other firms responded, with the ITEX submission receiving the highest score. 

ITEX was set to break ground a year later, but HANO then requested it add more units, and the company struggled at first to come up with financing, according to HANO spokeswoman Lesley Thomas.

Under the revised contract, which HANO’s board approved earlier this month, about 94 of the 156 rental units will be considered “affordable” — or designed for people who earn less than 80 percent of the area's median income — while the other 62 will be market-rate. Four more units will be for sale. 

Under the firm’s original project, 21 of the 80 units then planned would have been “affordable,” while another 21 would have been designated as public housing and yet another 21 designated for residents using housing vouchers. The last 17 would have been market-rate.  

That proposal came with a price tag of $14 million; the revised project will cost $26 million. ITEX and HANO will split the project’s development fee — with ITEX getting 75 percent of that amount and HANO 25 percent — and will equally divide any surplus money the project generates over time.

The 160 units will be built on all 18 scattered sites in the two neighborhoods, whereas under its earlier proposal, ITEX planned to build on only 16 of the sites, Thomas said. The added density will require a zoning change in those areas, which is being considered by the City Planning Commission.

Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA​.