"I am troubled by how little information the public has about the deals regarding the uptown properties and hoped the discussion at the committee meeting would shed some light on the post award negotiations, which Mr. Fortner is conducting out of public view," said Councilmember Head.
Her primary concern is that these 32 scattered sites, among the hundreds of others, are no closer to being placed in commerce than they were when Mr. Fortner first took over HANO in 2014. Moreover, the process by which these properties were "assigned" to four developers reduces competition and participation.
"The development opportunities were only available to those developers who had been 'pre-qualified' based on an October 2014 Request for Qualifications," said Councilmember Head. "This reduces competition and fails to ensure that the broadest number of qualified developers will respond to provide the best product."
Mr. Fortner maintains that there is "nothing to discuss," while Councilmember Head disagrees. She believes that the public is entitled to information including whether these "assigned" properties will be legally transferred to the developers, whether HANO will assist financially and ensure that public housing project-based unit contracts will be awarded to the developers, whether HANO or a private company will manage the properties, whether other tax subsidies will be used, and what the timeline for development is.
"For ten years, I have urged HANO to sell its vacant, tax exempt, and fallow properties, which I estimate to be worth more many millions. The proceeds from such sales could be used to improve home ownership levels in New Orleans," said Councilmember Head. "Despite my rational requests to remove vacancies and blight and to invest in New Orleans through new developments and property tax revenue, Mr. Fortner has simply announced one vague plan after another, none of which have resulted in a new dwelling for a New Orleans family. We hear a lot about the need for affordable housing in New Orleans. We also hear neighborhoods begging for the vacant properties blighting their areas to be placed into commerce and become homes for families. We can wait no longer for HANO to move its fallow properties into commerce."