From blight into bright: Previously dilapidated lot now features single mom’s residence

Published 10:46 am Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Two women in Bogalusa, having individual dreams and aspirations, after years of hard work and persistence, in the face of multiple obstacles, came together in late September to celebrate their achievements.

Brandi Bickham, a single mom of three children working two jobs, dreamed of a safe home for her family and of building assets for their financial future through homeownership. Bickham applied to purchase a home through Bogalusa Rebirth in 2019. She worked patiently with the homeownership coordinator to improve her credit score. She prepared a budget and a debt reduction plan and saw her plan through. Those efforts included an IDA savings plan through United Way. She applied to the USDA Rural Development mortgage division and was approved through their 502 Direct single-family housing program.

Wendy Williams Dupont, Bogalusa Rebirth Executive Director, dreamed of a way to build safe, decent affordable workforce housing in Bogalusa. Her dream was to make homeownership a reality for those earning less than 80 percent of the area median household income. Working with Louisiana Housing Corporation, she first achieved Community Housing Development Corporation status for the non-profit. She then began the process of applying for HUD HOME funds to finance land acquisition and construction. Her first project was awarded $291,565 in HUD HOME funds and an additional $98,996 in funds from Enterprise Community Partners to construct the first two houses. Enterprise also provided capacity building funding for the organization through HUD’s Section 4 program. Bickham closed and is now the proud homeowner of that second home. Answered prayers and realized dreams for both of these ladies.

Proceeds from the sale of Bickham’s house will go into a reuse fund at Bogalusa Rebirth to help fund future development. A second HUD HOME funds project is underway for five more houses. These are under construction and two are pre-sold. A third project has received preliminary approval to build eight more homes and those sites are currently under environmental review. All projects combined tally a total investment in Bogalusa inner-city neighborhoods of $2.5 million.

“This was a very complex project to get to closing,” Dupont said. “The property was an adjudicated property with a defunct title, and contained a blighted house containing dangerous asbestos materials. We worked with the City of Bogalusa on a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement and the previous owners, who donated their interest.

“Following environmental clearance and the eradication of the blighted structure, we worked with the new home buyer who was more than committed to the lengthy process. It took multiple entities working together for a common goal to get this property back into commerce. Brandi never gave up! Bogalusa Rebirth continues to work at addressing blight, and making dreams of homeownership a reality.”