St. Charles Parish’s new Housing Authority director has ‘boots on the ground’

As the third director named over the St. Charles Parish Housing Authority in recent years, Leatrice Hollis said she loves her job and understands how some might find that odd considering the challenges but she’s bringing something new to the job.

“I’ve worked in community development all my life,” Hollis said. “I incorporated in 1994, a nonprofit to create affordable housing. Most of the developments I had to fight to have them done.”

But she did do them, despite the public’s often negative view about affordable housing.

Hollis, 54, now lives in Destrehan, recently moved there from Jefferson Parish, and she’s busy “putting out fires and tying up loose ends” on the job.

On the job since July 2, she’s developed her vision for the Housing Authority, which oversees 129 units in Boutte, Hahnville and Des Allemands.

Hollis’ first priority is modernization.

“We still have aluminum electrical wiring,” Hollis said.

The wiring once popular in construction has since been identified as a fire hazard, which she learned well last Thursday when a unit with this wiring caught fire.

“The beautiful part of it is I’m hopeful,” she said. “I’ve done this as a nonprofit. I’ve always worked through federal programs with HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Development). The good thing with HUD is it works they duplicate it. I’m just duplicating what is working in other “We still have aluminum electrical wiring,” Hollis said. The wiring once popular in construction has since been identified as a fire hazard, which she learned well last Thursday when a unit with this wiring caught fire.

One of them is called RAD (the Rental Assistance Demonstration) program, which Congress authorized to help meet the large and growing capital improvement needs of the nation’s aging public housing. She’s also working on the Louisiana Low-Income Housing Tax program.

“I’m hands on,” she said. “I’ve got boots on the ground.”

Hollis’ gusto for action will be needed with all of the Authority’s housing units in need of modernization. Of the total units available, 119 are occupied and a long waiting list for remaining units that need repairs and upgrades.

“We want to bring them into the 21st century with additions like central AC and heating,” she said.

She also wants to make repairs with more durable materials, as well as update units.

As a developer who built affordable housing, Hollis said she is training maintenance staff on how to improve workmanship, as well as to save money.

With the Housing Authority’s 2018 budget just under $3 million, modernization, as well as accountability and fiscal management are her top priorities.

Hollis also is moving to establish a resident council.

Webb Jay, Authority board chairman, said Hollis came highly recommended by HUD and built housing that helped Section 8 residents become first-time homeowners.

“She just seemed like with her references and background in grand writing that, of all the candidates, she was a good fit for the agency,” Jay said. “I think she’s been great.”

Hollis has begun training the maintenance staff, which he said has gotten them excited about their jobs again. She’s formed a partnership with Home Depot, which help provide materials for units.

“She’s really rocking and rolling since she got there,” Jay said. “She had pretty extensive knowledge and familiar with the culture here. It just seemed like she could think outside the box to secure additional funds and help our physical score (HUD rating).”

Hollis was chosen from nearly 15 applicants and then the top three chosen for consideration, he said.

Jay added, “We’ve very optimistic about the future at this point so we’re looking forward to good things,”

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