A bright future: ‘Rebirth’ breaks ground on 1st house

Published 3:23 am Saturday, July 6, 2019

“The future is so bright in Bogalusa, you’ve got to wear shades!”

That could have been the theme on a sunny morning Thursday, as Bogalusa Rebirth celebrated the official groundbreaking of its first affordable home in the community.

Bogalusa Rebirth is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community revitalization project that was organized in 2007 as “Project Save Bogalusa.” In 2016, it was successful in receiving Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO) certification through the Louisiana Housing Corporation. CHDOs are eligible for additional government funding, and there are only 13 CHDOs in the state of Louisiana’s 64 parishes.

Wendy Williams, executive director of Bogalusa Rebirth, said that the organization’s primary immediate goal is to build three homes that will “transform neighborhoods and lives in Bogalusa.” Ground was broken on that first home, which will be located at 231 Montgomery Ave., on Thursday morning.

Williams said that the home would be owned by a veteran. Construction will begin as soon possible.

Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony was attended by many local and state government officials, some of whom spoke during the event. Washington Parish Council member Levi Lewis, who is also a member of the Bogalusa Rebirth board of directors, said that Thursday was a great day for the city.

“We are here to wash away the blight and give life to new homes,” he said.

Gov. John Bel Edwards had been scheduled to be the ceremony’s keynote speaker, but he had emergency oral surgery this week and had to recover. Former State Sen. Ben Nevers, who had also previously served as Edwards’ chief of staff, spoke on the governor’s behalf.

“You can see that our governor recognized the need for affordable housing, especially in rural areas,” Nevers said. “Today we stand on ground that is representative of what we can accomplish across our state.”

Nevers noted that since Thursday was the Fourth of July, it was especially poignant that the future house will be owned by a U.S. veteran.

Buddy Spillers, chairman of the Louisiana Housing Corporation (LHC), said that the state agency would assist Bogalusa Rebirth in whatever it needs.

“I promise that we are going to be your partner every step of the way,” he said.

Spillers was also the first to introduce the sunglasses theme, as he took out a pair and put them on before beginning his remarks.

“I’m going to put these glasses on, because the future is so bright in Bogalusa that I’m going to need them,” he said.

Other dignitaries who spoke about the project included U.S. Rep. Dr. Ralph Abraham, Washington Parish President Richard “Ned” Thomas and Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette.

The primary funding for the project is a $400,000 award of HOME (Home Investment Partnerships Program) funds from the Louisiana Housing Corporation. Under HOME Program rules, at least 15 percent of LHC’s annual HOME allocation must be set aside for eligible CHDOs like Bogalusa Rebirth.

The project also received a $100,000 grant from Enterprise Community Partners, and a $30,000 Rural Veterans Initiative grant from the Housing Assistance Council.

Upon completion of the initial three-house construction project, Bogalusa Rebirth plans to remain involved in the community’s revitalization by seeking funding to construct additional homes for low-income individuals and veterans.

Williams also noted the contributions of Brent Nobles, and Nobles and Associates, who will build the homes; along with the major development partners of LHC, the Housing Assistance Council and Enterprise Community Partners.

Title sponsors for the project are Hancock Whitney Bank and Our Lady of the Angels Hospital. Other partners are Wells Fargo Foundation, USDA Rural Development, Local Initiatives Support Corp., Rotary Club of Bogalusa, State Rep. Malinda White, International Paper, Resource Bank, Firemen’s Federal Credit Union, Washington Men’s Club, Jax-Piper LLC, IBEW Local Union #1077, Citizens Savings Bank, The First Bank, Catherine Gerald Real Estate, One-Eleven LLC, Robert Nielson, CPA, Strange Real Estate Investments and the City of Bogalusa.

For more information, visit online at www.bogalusarebirth.com.