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PA, EDC mull type of residents needed downtown

 

Port Arthur’s City Council and the city’s Economic Development Corporation board both agreed during a joint meeting Tuesday the downtown area needs an infusion of residential rooftops, but that’s where the consensus ended.

At issue was what type of residents would best attract retailers — those who need a helping hand to get into home ownership, or those with higher salaries and more disposable income.

The EDC is considering spending $300,00 to $400,00 a year to partner with the city on an affordable housing project designed to attract people to the downtown area around Lamar State College – Port Arthur along Fifth and Sixth streets.

Those making application for the new homes would need to meet credit requirements and fall within income limits established by HUD.

The lowest limit, for one person, is $12,000 to $32,000. The highest, for a family of 8, is $37,700 to $60,000.

“To begin revitalization, we have to have rooftops,” EDC Director Floyd Batiste said.

The EDC with the assistance of the city’s housing program would provide a down payment to bring the cost of a $130,000 house down to around $100,00, making the mortgage within reach of those who may not have been able to afford a home of their own.

Batiste said the Fifth and Sixth Street location had been selected because there are already numerous vacant lots on the streets, and because the area is near the well-lit Lamar campus.

The EDC would strictly be a conduit of funds; the program would be controlled by the city, Batiste said.

While no members of either board were opposed to bringing housing downtown, some voiced concerns that people with a higher income might be more in line with the city’s vision of revitalizing downtown.

“We have to attract the right people in order to catch fire down there,” Morris Albright, District 3 City Councilman, said. “If all you are catching is a janitor at Lamar, you’re not moving ahead and will not stabilize the neighborhood.”

District 2 Councilwoman Tiffany L. Hamilton agreed with Albright.

“I agree with Councilman Albright; it seems clear we want to do this, but need to establish better guidelines” she said.

The first thing retailers do when moving into an area is to look at income levels in the area. It’s not enough for people to be able to make their mortgage if they don’t have any disposable income, Albright said.

“It is not worth spending the money if you are putting in expensive houses but low income people,” Albright said. “While it’s a great idea, if we can’t get the people we want then let’s move on to something else.”

Batiste said the intent of the program was to bring a better quality of life to the city’s downtown.

The next step is for the EDC board to consider formally making the recommendation to City Council at its next meeting scheduled for Dec. 7.

City Council will have to approve the matter, and then place it on the May election ballot for voters to decide if the EDC can spend money on 4B expenditures.

E-mail: sherry.koonce@panews.com

Twitter: skooncePANews