According to data available from urban.org, Caddo Parish suffers from a lack of affordable housing options. The study, created using information available from the American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Microdata Sample from the Census, the US Department of Housing, and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), shows that nearly 5,000 affordable rental units short of our need. Much needs to be done to help fix this issue. Primarily, the long-term goal should be to provide for increased earning potential through business development, education, and increased wages, but many still need immediate help to provide for a basic standard of living for all in Caddo Parish.
Yesterday, Thursday, April 19, 2018, the Caddo Parish Commission voted 7-5 to adopt Ordinance 5759 of 2018 to identify and dedicate $1 million in Parish funding to fund the E. Edward Jones Housing Trust Fund. The ordinance, spearheaded by Commissioner Jackson has been discussed by the Commission for six months and was the subject of much debate.
“This is a huge building block to really lay the foundation for more equitable development,” said Commissioner Steven Jackson, author of the ordinance. “With all the TIFs and tax credits that go to big developments and tax abatements we give to large corporations in the name of economic development, I think it’s fair to have this small stream of revenue that goes to neighborhood development. Given the high number vacant housing and blighted neighborhoods, it is important that we send a message that our communities are worth investing in.
The E. Edward Housing Trust Fund was created by Caddo Parish in April 2017 to honor the life and legacy of the late Reverend Dr. E. Edward Jones. Jones was the patriarch of the Galilee Baptist Church for more than five decades. He was instrumental in leading the legal efforts to desegregate Caddo Parish School and desegregating the at-large form of government for the Caddo Parish Police Jury (now the Caddo Commission) which prevented African Americans from serving on the Police Jury. In 2003, Dr. Jones helped develop an area around Galilee Baptist Church into 76 new apartment homes now known as Galilee City. The development opened the door for the development of low and moderate income housing for Shreveport families that lacked historical investments.
Several Commissioners including Commissioner Lyndon B. Johnson (District 2) advocated for funding the Trust Fund noting, “When homes are built for homeowners they are put back onto the property tax rolls and contribute to an increase in quality of life for all of Caddo Parish to benefit.” Pointing out that the Caddo Parish has funding multiple projects before, Commissioner Matthew Linn cited the Parish’s previous investment in ACCION’s revolving loan for small business was returned 100% with interest.
The United Way of Northwest Louisiana’s Asset-Limited, Income Constrained, Employed nicknamed ALICE Report cited housing as a critical need in its 2015 and 2016 report. “ALICE is a group of people who work hard but still cannot afford to make ends meet,” Sarah Berthelot, CEO of Louisiana Association of United Ways, wrote in the report’s opening. The nonprofit reported that more than 18,000 renters in Caddo Parish – or 48 percent – pay more than 30 percent of their total income for housing, making them “housing burdened.” More than 40 percent of all Louisiana families can’t afford basic expenses of housing, food, child care, transportation or health care, according to the report. The creation of the Trust Fund was intended to be a tool in the toolbox to help Caddo parish reduce renters and to reduce the percentage of people identified as cost burdened.
“Funding for our Trust Fund would allow the Parish to leverage $1 million in seed funding with millions of outside private dollars. Over 600 cities and counties across the United States have successful Trust Funds and leverage those resources to help facilitate home ownership, rehabilitation of existing housing stock, neighborhood improvement grants, veterans housing, mixed-use development, small business micro-loans. I don’t see why we wouldn’t utilize a proven national best practice here in Caddo Parish,” said Commissioner Steven Jackson.
This article was written, in large part, using a press release sourced from Commissioner Steven Jackson.