Legacy hopes for more time, expanded boundary in Port Arthur housing program

Published 12:24 am Saturday, May 7, 2022

The provisions of an affordable housing ballot proposition approved by Port Arthur voters in 2016 is set to expire in the coming months.

Now, the executive director of Legacy Community Development Corporation is hoping for an extension on the program and of its boundary in a bid to help residents become homeowners.

Vivian Ballou is executive director of Legacy CDC, a non-profit that develops affordable housing and provides financial counseling. She presented information to the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation board earlier this week in hopes of getting an extension.

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Legacy partners with PAEDC on the affordable housing program in the area of Fifth Street to Eighth Street from Atlanta Avenue to Nashville Avenue.

Ballou is hoping for a three-year extension on the program, which ends in September. The topic was a presentation and not an agenda item this week, so no vote was taken.

There is approximately $700,000 in unallocated funds left in the program, said Rachel Jacquet, PAEDC financial officer.

But the reason there is still money left and a need for more time was explained.

“We began this project in 2016, but from day one there were delays,” Ballou said. “We received donated property from the city of Port Arthur, which had to go through environmental clearances for the federal use of funds. We had some delays due to funding allocations and also just inability to purchase property here. There were delays. Many of the properties here have liens; taxes or we’re unable to find the heirs so all of these things cause delays. We actually did not begin phase 1 until the third year of the program, which is when phase two was supposed to begin.”

There are also delays due to the rising cost of materials, she said. The first home built from the program was in 2019 and cost approximately $125,000. The homes are now at $175,000.

Ballou would like to see the target expanded to include Woodworth Boulevard and also include the Gifford-Pond area on Sixth Avenue just off Procter Street.

The reason for the expansion is to be able to purchase more land.

“At this point there’s no more land to purchase in the original target area, so we’re basically landlocked because of the initial design the program,” she said. “We could move all the way towards Woodworth Boulevard, including Lakeshore. There’s over 65 vacant lots that I’ve identified that are buildable in that area, which would allow us to continue the program and also fit into some of the city’s plans where they’re spending a lot of money on redevelopment of Rose Hill Park.

“So if we bring the development that way ,when you’re basically coming into downtown, you’ll have new houses on Procter Street coming to downtown coming off Woodworth and also to utilize the new park that they’re building over on Rose Hill.”

But in order to extend the timeline, the issue would have to be placed on the ballot in November, she said.

Board member Harold Doucet questioned Ballou on her requests and discussed not binding themselves by placing a specific border on the areas. However, a fellow board member reminded the group the idea of the affordable housing program was to get people downtown.

“I would still like to see more done in this (initial) area if possible,” Darrell Anderson said. “If you extend it out, just thinking about a few blocks going in that direction, there are a number of vacant lots. I see your point though as far as being able to help people in general.”

The program provides participants credit and financial counseling and once completed they receive homebuyer certification.

The city of Port Arthur provides the land. Walkways and driveways are also included. Participants may qualify for up to $40,000 in down payment assistant from the city and then up to $30,000 from the EDC.

The assistance is based on income and eligibility.