LaGrange Housing Authority moves forward on improvements

More construction will soon be underway on Whitesville Road, as the LaGrange Housing Authority moves
forward with a new development, which will focus on elderly and disabled citizens.
Last week, the LaGrange Housing Authority closed on a Rental Assistance Demonstration deal for 9 percent tax
credit on 70 new units to be built on Whitesville Road near the Benjamin Harvey Hill Homes. The new
construction is part of the housing authority’s efforts to improve the area while meeting the needs of its ever present waiting list.

“You will start to see 70 new units built on Whitesville Road on the six acres that we own,” LHA CEO Zsa Zsa
Heard said. “They will be brand new construction. They will be [for] our residents who [will] transfer to that
property. We’ve done this through tax credits.”

Those tax credits are being used to fund the construction of the development with the help of investors, and it is
far from the LHA’s only plan on Whitesville Road.

“Those residents will stay in their units, and when those units are complete, we’ll move them to those [new] units,”
Heard said. “Then we’ll move to the next phase. There is another phase of things that will be on the front of
Whitesville Road, and you will no longer see Whitesville Road units, because it is going to turn into a linear park.
We are going to totally move those units out, and it will be a park.”

The linear park will be a long, thin park that runs between the LHA homes on Whitesville Road and the road itself.
It is being funded through the Callaway Foundation and the City of LaGrange, and it is expected to improve the
overall appearance of the Whitesville Road corridor. According to Heard, the LHA is also working to remove blight
in the area around the housing authority.

“We do want to remove the blight,” Heard said. “That is one of our jobs at the housing authority — to remove blight
in our area. There should not be blight around the housing authority.”

In her time as CEO, Heard has placed an emphasis on improving the housing authority property and programs in
order to encourage LHA residents to improve themselves.

“People typically think that no one pays rent at the housing authority,” Heard said. “Our job is to make sure
everybody pays rent. You do not want zero [dollar] renters, and we do have $0 renters right now. We have about
50 people that do not pay any rent, meaning their rent is zero. They pay nothing because it is subsidized by
taxpayer dollars. We do not want that. We want those 50 to pay rent.”

Because LHA housing is income based, rent varies widely, with at least one resident paying $700 a month in rent,
according to Heard. According to Heard, the average annual income for residents at the LaGrange Housing
Authority is $10,720, but some residents have income in the $40,000 range. She also said that the average rent is
$239 a month, based on income, the number of children, deductions and other factors and the housing authority’s
goal is to create an environment where everyone pays rent and works to improve themselves.

“In order for us to get those 50 people to pay rent, we are going to have to change the mindset,” Heard said. “That
means that you are going to have to put things into place so that people don’t think that they can continue to live in
the housing authority for free. That is not the concept of it. It is for someone who has a lower income that maybe
can’t afford [other housing] or someone who has a lower paying job that needs to get on their feet, but the key is
not to stay for free.”

The LHA is currently in the process of performing $9.2 million in renovations on 85 units at Lucy Morgan Homes.
Those improvements will include granite counter tops, Trane HVAC systems, two bathroom apartments and
onsite laundry. Residents were able to offer input on some of the features, including paint colors.

Read more LaGrange Housing Authority moves forward on improvements, LGDN