NEW ORLEANS, LA – Only months after fulfilling their promise to build 100 homes for New Orleanians who lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina, Leonard and Louise Riggio announced today that they are building another 100 homes in Gentilly.
The first gift of 101 fully-furnished homes to Katrina victims was fueled by a quest for social justice and a desire to make families whole again, explained Leonard Riggio, Founder and Chairman of Barnes & Noble, Inc. “This second round is about making neighborhoods whole again. We need to encourage continued development and repopulation. While individual homes are the centers of family life, communities are the centers of civic life.” And, as in the past, Riggio noted, “We will fully furnish the new homes to give the families a fresh start, and the dignity that comes with selecting furnishings of their own choosing.”
“We were so grateful that the Riggios kept their original promise to build 100 homes, that we never imagined only a few months later they would step up and agree to keep the revitalization going,” said Mayor Landrieu. “The Riggios are real heroes. We’re going to be able to make a real impact in Gentilly.”
Project Home Again, a nonprofit housing development organization launched by the Riggios in the months following Hurricane Katrina, plans to build 100 two, three, and four-bedroom homes for first-time homebuyers who earn less than 120% of the area median income ($61,875 for a family of four in Orleans Parish) across the neighborhoods of northern Gentilly.
The homes will be sold to buyers at their cost of $150,000 to $175,000 with the Riggios covering all of the overhead. The New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) is contributing an additional $1.26 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP2) grant funds – part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – to the new effort.
The City will contribute to the project through its Soft Seconds Mortgage Program which makes forgivable loans to low and moderate income families buying their first homes in New Orleans. This subsidy can effectively lower the cost of the home by up to another $65,000 depending on the buyer’s total household income. As an example, a three-bedroom home could effectively cost the homebuyer as little as $105,000. In addition, families earning below 90% of the area median income may be eligible for closing cost assistance and down payment requirements as low as 1% of the sale price.
“Project Home Again was among the first of the NSP2-funded partners to meet its construction goals,” said Jeffrey Hebert, NORA’s Executive Director, “We will continue to partner with high-performing developers to rebuild New Orleans neighborhoods. We are proud of Project Home Again’s work in Gentilly.”
Utilizing NSP2 stimulus funds, NORA, in collaboration with 16 developers, has been building and rehabilitating homes throughout the city. Project Home Again purchased over 80 vacant lots from NORA for its first round of construction and anticipates purchasing approximately 100 more in this next phase.
District D Councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell said, “The vision, commitment, and generosity of Len and Louise Riggio with building 100 homes in District D, is one of life’s highlights post-Hurricane Katrina and the failed levees. And once again, they are sharing their gifts with families and the City of New Orleans to make neighborhoods whole and create sustainable communities. We are truly fortunate to have the Riggio’s Project Home Again program as a phenomenal benefactor of our growing city.”
Carey Shea, Project Home Again’s project director on loan to the City of New Orleans said, “Discussions with Mayor Mitch Landrieu, NORA, and numerous renters who stopped by Project Home Again’s offices inquiring about the first 101 homes are what prompted the Riggios to continue their revitalization work.”
Project Home Again is now well-known in Gentilly for its beautiful homes that fit seamlessly into the 1940’s neighborhoods of St. Anthony and Seabrook. With a small staff operating out of a construction trailer, the nonprofit steadily built 101 new, energy-efficient homes from 2007 through end of 2011, all of which were donated fully furnished to families who had lost their homes to in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Interested families should visit the Soft Second Mortgage Program website at www.nola.gov/softseconds or Project Home Again at www.projecthomeagain.net ; individuals and developers interested in acquiring properties from NORA should visit www.noraworks.org