Affordable housing planned for Bogalusa

Published 11:11 am Wednesday, November 7, 2012

As the revitalization and transformation of Bogalusa continues via work-in-process throughout the city, Mayor Charles Mizell and Melvin Keith, a retired paper mill engineer, have been touring neighborhoods with another project in mind.

Mizell said he has tapped Keith for city service and initially tasked him with a job designed to significantly and positively change lives.

“We put him in charge of housing,” the mayor said. “He’s working to develop strategies for the city and to plan construction of affordable housing. At this time we are evaluating vacant lots in the city for, I believe, a commitment of a minimum of 10 affordable houses.”

Mizell said the idea is to provide new opportunities for home ownership while improving neighborhoods, and ultimately the city, in the process. Homeowners typically care more about the upkeep and appearance of their properties than renters because of their investment, he said.

“These affordable houses will be transitional houses to promote people from renters to home owners,” Mizell said. “We will try to positively take people out of Section Eight housing with some incentives.”

The incentives include assistance with improving their credit scores, he said.

Mizell isn’t yet ready to disclose where the new homes will be built, but said he and Keith are working to identify the locations at this time.

“We want to put them where they would have the most impact,” Mizell said. “We are going to sprinkle them throughout the community and we will require code enforcement in the area.”

In order to make sure the new homes are well kept, the city will “aggressively enforce codes because of the investment,” he said.

“It will be a neighborhood,” Mizell said. “And by being a neighborhood, there will be a greater result and a greater impact on the city over all.”

Construction is expected to begin in late spring or early summer.

Mizell said similar projects are under way throughout the state.

He is confident that Keith is the man to tackle the job.

“I give Melvin Keith a lot of credit,” Mizell said. “He has 30 plus years of experience at the mill as a civil engineer working on major projects. He worked with HUD. He understands the program and he knows people.

“He is doing a total evaluation in the city and developing a master plan within the strategic development plan for Bogalusa.”

Housing is one of the key issues in the strategic development of the city, he said. Funding is available, and shovel-ready projects are the most likely to be approved.

Keith is in the process of guiding Bogalusa’s affordable housing project to that point.

“I’ve always had a passion for helping people,” he said. “Through housing, hopefully we can change things. If we help one person at a time those people will take more interest in keeping up their homes and make them a better place.”

Keith and Mizell agree that those are among the building blocks for a “Better Bogalusa.”