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Major study to assess housing in five-parish area

Last Modified: Saturday, November 02, 2013 6:14 PM

By John Guidroz / American Press

A strategic planning firm will likely start working early next year on the last part of a three-phase study that developers and major industrial companies can use to assess housing in the five-parish area, an official with the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance said Thursday.

David Conner, vice president of economic development and international commerce, said a request for proposals has been issued to find a company to finish the study. The study is funded by the state Office of Community Development Disaster Recovery Unit.

“We’re doing this to satisfy the needs of these (industrial) companies and guide how we build in the future,” he said. “But we want to keep the character and the community of Southwest Louisiana as close as it is right now.”

The selected company will study how to build “for resiliency,” according to Conner. That includes building stronger and safer homes and building correctly within hurricane impact zones. They will also work on a housing market plan using data collected and projections on permanent and temporary jobs within the region.

“We need to figure out what we need in the community and make projections on when that time will peak and when to scale it back,” Conner said. “We don’t want to overbuild. It’s all a combination of planning to guide the process along the way and help decision makers make good decisions.”

The first phase of the study was finished last year and included gathering census data, demographics, the number of homes in the region and the housing price ranges. Conner said the 300-page report will be used by whichever planning firm is selected to work on the second and third phases.

Once completed, Conner said, the entire study can be used by developers as well as the industrial companies who have announced plans to bring new projects to Southwest Louisiana.

“With those larger companies, usually each of them when they have a project, they will do a housing study to make sure the area has adequate housing,” he said. “Instead of doing individual studies for each company, they have the option to use our plan or a combination of the two. Our study is not going to be one project specific; we will take all developments in one plan.”

Conner said the alliance has worked on the study for several years, but after the Southwest Louisiana Task Force for Growth and Opportunity, or Go Group, formed earlier this year, the alliance decided to combine the study with their efforts. The Go Group was formed as a way to plan ahead for the anticipated growth after several high-dollar industrial projects were announced for Southwest Louisiana.

Conner chairs the Go Group’s housing subcommittee. Other subcommittees deal with issues like transportation, workforce and education, public safety and public health, among others.

Conner said the housing study could be finished by the summer, but that officials will get updates periodically.

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