Road Home Properties on the Auction Block

Next week Jefferson Parish will become the first place in Louisiana to begin selling Road Home properties on the open market.

The parish is holding an auction Aug. 15 in the council chamber at the Joseph S. Yenni Building in Elmwood, where 86 properties, most of them empty lots but a few with houses, will go up for bid. The list roughly reflects the pockets of Jefferson Parish that suffered the worst flooding after Hurricane Katrina, with the densest cluster in the Maple Ridge section of Old Metairie.

Some lots in other parishes have been transferred to neighbors or community groups, but Jefferson is the first to hold an auction opening the government-owned parcels to the public, said Mike Taylor, director of the Louisiana Land Trust, the agency holding the storm-scarred properties that the state bought from homeowners after Katrina.

“Finally, we’ve got some real positive traction” in a process that was long delayed by regulatory hurdles, Taylor said. “Jefferson’s done a good job. They’ve been very proactive.”

It helps that Jefferson has a relatively small number of properties to manage, he said. Parish officials say they have processed 147 bought-out lots. Taylor said almost 10,000 such properties are spread throughout the state, creating an unprecedented government effort at returning residential lots to commerce.

“A lot of this is things that nobody’s ever done before, the scope and the scale,” Taylor said.

Taylor said the next parish likely to start selling Road Home land is Plaquemines, where officials will take sealed bids instead of holding an open auction.

Of the 147 Jefferson properties, 36 were set aside for development as low-cost housing that will be sold to qualifying families. That stipulation came with the federal money used to buy out previous residents.

Another 25 properties include some that are still in the Road Home buy-out process and a few sold to their immediate neighbors through the Lot Next Door Program, said Tony DiGerolamo, a parish executive overseeing the dispensation of the properties….