Affordable housing plan gains support in Sulphur

By By Natalie Stewart / American Press

SULPHUR — The City Council endorsed a project on Monday that could allow for affordable housing options in the northern part

of the city.

The council’s favorable vote will aid

the real estate developer in seeking funding on the state level, but he

still has to

go before the city’s Land Use Commission and back before the

council for final approval before the wheels are set in motion

to begin the project.

Dru Ellender, District 1 councilwoman, said that before final approval is given for the project to be executed, she wants

to talk to residents near where the subdivision will be.

Greg Gachassin, real estate developer, said the Cartesian Company’s affordable housing project will “support the economic

impact and the development of affordable housing” in the Sulphur community.

“The state is taking it upon themselves, with the direction of the governor, to push a lot of funding that they provide each

year to the areas of the highest economic investment,” he said. “From an industrial standpoint and a commercial standpoint

of business and jobs, clearly, Sulphur is a targeted area for that, based on all the development coming.”

Gachassin said Sulphur is a “natural fit” for the development.

The housing project is planned for a 13-acre plot on East Burton Street, between Pitre and Barrett streets.

Gachassin said the plan is for 50 lots in that area, each about 70 by 120 feet. The units will be two- three- and four-bedroom

single-family houses constructed of mostly brick.

The company has developed eight similar subdivisions in the state, including one in Cameron Parish.

“Every one of our developments have

been certified under the Enterprise Green Committee standard,” Gachassin

said. “We also

do a lot of focus on landscaping ... . This is going to be an

in-field development; it’s surrounded on all sides by development

currently, with residential on all sides.”

The subdivision will not be public housing or Section 8 and won’t be targeting the indigent, he said.

“Specifically, we refer to our housing

as affordable, and that’s what it is. It’s affordable, and it’s for what

we consider

working individuals with lower incomes,” he said. “It could be

police officers or firemen starting out, utility workers, etc.

These are folks that can’t afford $900 for a one-bedroom apartment

or anything of new and superior quality.”

Gachassin said rent for houses in the subdivision would run in the neighborhood of $750 per month.

Tenants would also have to be certified for the dwellings, he said. Their employment and income would be verified, and credit,

rental history and background checks would be done.

“We have strict policies and rules in place that if someone has had a felony in the last five years, they can’t live there.

Or if they’ve had more than two misdemeanors in the last five years, they can’t live there,” he said.

“If the person has ever (committed) a violent crime, they can’t live there. We typically have some of the best tenants because

a lot of other rental properties don’t have the benefits of performing all those checks and verifying all those things.”

Gachassin said tenant reverifications are done annually.

He said the project would cost about $10 million and would create about 187 construction jobs.

“There are going to be other people coming here, because we are an open area, and there will be other people with these kinds

of things coming to us,” Ellender told the council.

“We need to pick who we want to do

these, and the questions I asked (Gachassin) made me feel a whole lot

more comfortable

about what they’re doing than some have in the past that we have

talked to. Every question I have asked, he has given a direct