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Affordable homes, new subdivision planned for Port Arthur

A Port Arthur nonprofit geared at helping low- and moderate-income families obtain homeownership presented plans this week to develop a vacant lot into a waterfront subdivision with 24 new residences.

“Legacy’s mission is to strengthen families and build strong communities,” said Vivan Ballou, executive director of Legacy Community Development Corp., during a presentation to the city council. “We’ve accomplished this through home ownership programs, homeless prevention activities, rental assistance programs and the development of affordable housing, as well as disaster recovery programs and other social services.”

Legacy, one of only two agencies in Southeast Texas with approval through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), has been working with the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation and the downtown redevelopment project to build and sell 60 homes in downtown Port Arthur. To date, 22 have been completed with 21 sold.

“This is to help bring rooftops while the EDC brings jobs to that community,” Ballou said.

According to information from the National Association of Home Builders, the addition of 100 affordable homes brings in approximately 161 local jobs in the first year and provides nearly $12 million in local income.

In order to help achieve this, the company helps participants with free credit and financial counseling and often times help with the down payment.

“I ride through sometimes just to see how those homes have progressed and how the growth has progressed in downtown Port Arthur,” Mayor Pro Tem Charlotte Moses told Ballou. “Those homes look absolutely beautiful. We’ve toured them. I’ve been inside them. The work is impeccable.”

Phase Two, called Legacy at Gifford Pond, will be located at 101 6th Avenue.

“This property has been vacant pretty much all of my life,” Ballou said.

The company plans to invest approximately $5.1 million into the development of housing for the subdivision, with each averaging 1,800 to 2,200 square feet. Also on the list of features is a community garden and playground area.

“Thank you for the Phase Two project that you’re considering,” said District 1 Councilwoman Ingrid Holmes. “It happens to be in District One and I am happy to see that we are looking at doing some things in the older part of Port Arthur.”

Ballou said the biggest roadblock the company has hit involves liens on land or properties intended for purchase, but City Manager Ron Burton said the city is working with Legacy to bypass that.

“We’re always willing and always prepared to release whatever liens that the city has — whether it’s grass or a demolition lien — in order to put it back on the tax roll,” Burton said. “If the property’s not back on the tax roll, it’s of no benefit to the city.”

A timeline for when Legacy at Gifford Pond will begin was not disclosed.