The Lafayette Housing Authority is again looking for a new executive director after Ted Ortiviz resigned less than one year into the job.
Ortiviz, who joined the authority in March, is returning to his native Pueblo, Colorado, to help care for a family member, he said in an interview. The need for him to move back is related to COVID-19, he said.
Ortiviz leaves after closing a $14.3 million deal with a private developer to replace the dilapidated Moss and Simcoe public housing complexes with 104 new units. The deal represents a scaled-back revision to plans initiated by Ortiviz’s predecessor, Yvonda Bean, to redevelop all of the authority’s 572 public housing units.
Ortiviz’s resignation disappointed housing commissioners who hoped he would lead the initiative to convert Lafayette's public housing stock into “Section 8” voucher apartments, garnering private investment for renovations in the process. His background in community development financing, and his previous experience leading the Pueblo Housing Authority through similar conversions, seemed a good fit for Lafayette.
“When we hired Ted, of course our hope was that he would stay with us,” said commissioner Melinda Taylor, during Ortiviz’s final meeting on Jan. 27.
The conversions are occurring through a federal program known as “Rental Assistance Demonstration,” or RAD, which has resulted in the conversions of more than 100,000 public housing units across the country. The idea is to replace waning federal subsidies for renovations with private investment.
One concern of housing advocates is that RAD conversions surrender too much control to private developers. But Ortiviz said the Lafayette authority’s partnership with Fyffe, Alabama-based Vantage Development is structured so that Vantage will not retain long-term management rights, allowing the housing authority to continue as landlord. The developer and authority will initially act as co-managers, but Vantage will exit the partnership altogether within a year or two, Ortiviz said.
“We wanted to make sure our residents felt comfortable in that some out-of-state company wasn’t coming in and taking over and managing that property,” he said.
A representative for Vantage did not respond to messages.
Ortiviz, who holds a law degree from Western Michigan University, closed the Vantage deal in November with multifamily housing revenue bonds issued by the Louisiana Housing Corp. The renovated units will include new plumbing, roofing, drywall and fixtures, and newly built community rooms will feature computer and internet access for residents.
Construction is currently expected to conclude by the end of the year, and the complexes will be renamed Cardinal Gardens I & II. The project will result in the loss of only two units, to make way for the community rooms. No tenants will need to relocate, Ortiviz said.
When conceived during Bean’s tenure, the authority aimed to group Simcoe and Moss with the 200-unit C.O. Circle in a $35 million initial redevelopment phase, and then proceed with the authority’s other three complexes in a second phase.
Those additional plans, including for C.O. Circle, are off for now.
C.O. Circle was problematic from the start, as about 60 of the units are in a federally designated floodway and ineligible for redevelopment. The authority eventually will decide whether to demolish those units.
As for the Irene Street, Macon Road and Martin Luther King Boulevard complexes, Ortiviz said “they were never really on the table.”
Oritviz’s predecessor, Bean, left the authority in August 2019, and the authority then hired a search firm, resulting in Ortiviz’s hiring six months later.
Ortiviz left his job at the Pueblo Housing Authority around the same time Bean left Lafayette. Local media in Pueblo reported Ortiviz’s departure while noting that no reason had been provided. He told the Advocate that left the Pueblo job for personal reasons, unrelated to the agency’s business or his tenure there. He declined to elaborate.
A Pueblo housing commissioner referred questions to the agency’s lawyer, who did not respond to a query concerning the circumstances of Ortiviz’s departure. A request for Ortiviz's personnel records was denied.
A time frame for hiring a new director at the Lafayette authority has not been established.