Major study to assess housing in five-parish area

By 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.