Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lower 9th. Ward Project to build 150 Homes

"In a novel and ambitious effort to return New Orleans homeowners to their own neighborhood, an international consortium of architects led by film star Brad Pitt announced plans Wednesday to develop at least 150 storm-safe, environmentally sound houses in the section of the Lower 9th Ward reduced to rubble by a massive levee breach.

Working lot by lot instead of amassing huge development tracts, the project, dubbed Make It Right, will take applications from homeowners who want to rebuild their own properties with model homes now being designed, said Virginia Miller, a New Orleans spokeswoman for the project.

"Make It Right isn't buying big parcels of land," she said. "We don't have an interest in being a developer. We have an interest in building houses for people."
unlike other plans, including recovery director Ed Blakely's $1.1 billion blueprint to rebuild the city starting in 17 target zones, Make It Right is not designed around a traditional commercial center, nor does it aim to expand an area already beginning to thrive.

Instead, it focuses squarely on a neighborhood that has become an icon of New Orleans' destruction: the blocks just east of where a powerful storm surge crashed through the Industrial Canal floodwall during Hurricane Katrina, obliterating dozens of homes and reducing hundreds more to piles of splintered rubbish.

Miller said the project area will extend across the 11 blocks between North Claiborne Avenue and the Florida Avenue Canal, and several blocks to the east, though precisely how far is in flux.

Loan program

With the average home expected to cost between $100,000 and $174,000, planners anticipate most homeowners will be able to contribute some cash for construction but that most will fall about $70,000 short of paying off their new homes, according to a program dossier.

As a result, Make It Right plans to offer forgivable gap loans of as much as $100,000, with the caveat that applicants must have owned a home or lot in the Lower 9th Ward before Katrina. No homeowners who participate in the program will pay more than 30 percent of their gross monthly income on house payments, documents show.

Homeowners will be expected to contribute money from insurance proceeds, savings and Road Home grants, and to investigate their options in the traditional mortgage market. But Miller said a large loan reserve will be available, financed largely by contributions of $5 million each from Pitt and Steve Bing, a film producer and philanthropist who inherited his family's real estate fortune." |Read more|

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