HANO boss resists push to open public housing to more ex-convicts

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON-- New HANO (Housing Authority of New Orleans) CEO Gregg Fortner stands near his office in New Orleans, La. Wednesday, July 23, 2014. He is the first leader of the organization since it was released earlier this month from 12 years under federal control.

With little discussion, the board of the Housing Authority of New Orleans on Tuesday unanimously chose four local developers to revamp the second bunch of its so-called “scattered site” developments.

The action came almost a year after several board members called for HANO to give local firms more of that kind of work.

Firms chosen to redevelop 20 properties in the Uptown area include Project Homecoming, Perez/Harmony Neighborhood Development, JC Patin Group and the team of REO LLC, Nationwide Real Estate Corp. and Doucette & Associated General Contractors.

The move is in line with HANO’s 2014 decision to rehabilitate rather than sell about 230 of the scattered site properties, which are often small apartment buildings with fewer than a dozen units.

The agency put out a call for developers to revamp the first group of such properties, about 18 sites in the Bywater neighborhood, in 2015. That project eventually went to ITEX Group of Houston, sparking protests from some board members and local firms who said the authority should try to direct such work to local firms first.

At the time, Executive Director Gregg Fortner said that ITEX, which received the top score among seven firms that responded to HANO’s call for proposals, was the most qualified applicant to handle all 18 properties.

This time, Fortner’s staff recommended that the board award contracts for only 20 of the 32 Uptown properties offered to developers in November.

That leaves the rest of the sites open for an award should one of those developers show that they can handle extra properties or if they need more properties to make their financing plans work, said Jennifer Adams, HANO’s director of development and modernization.

The firms awarded the two highest scores by a HANO committee, Project Homecoming and Perez, will receive nine properties each. Project Homecoming received a score of 73 on a 100-point scale, while Perez scored 66.

JC Patin, which scored 53, will handle only one property. So will the team of REO, Nationwide and Doucette, which scored 51.

The board authorized Fortner to negotiate contracts with the four firms.  

Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA​.