Broome’s proposed $6M Housing for Heroes investment raises questions
As Metro Council members begin to delve into Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s spending plan for the $73 million in American Rescue Plan dollars headed to Baton Rouge, they’re starting to ask questions.
Council member Dwight Hudson is among those who has sent an email to Broome requesting more information on some items in the budget supplement, first introduced at the Oct. 13 council meeting. Council member Rowdy Gaudet has a meeting with the mayor on the subject later today.
Among the allocations they’re asking about is a $6 million earmark for an $11 million, mixed-use affordable housing development in north Baton Rouge called Housing for Heroes.
What’s the program about?
According to the mayor’s office, the project will be a 51,000-square-foot, mixed-use development with 36, one-, two- and three-bedroom affordable units for essential workers and low- and moderate-income professionals. The development will be located in Scotlandville at the intersection of Scenic Highway and Scotland Avenue. The $6 million will be used to provide gap funding for the construction of the project.
“The (East Baton Rouge Parish) Office of Community Development along with its stakeholders are re-envisioning the entire northern side of the city, which has the majority of the jurisdictional blight, the highest concentration of poverty and other community development challenges,” Broome’s spokesman Mark Armstrong says in a statement. “Housing for Heroes is proposed to be used by our local front line medical workers to live and work near our most vulnerable communities. The development will provide badly needed affordable housing, foster economic development through its commercial space, and incentivize medical professionals to stay in the area.”
According to the budget supplement presented to the council last week, the developer of the proposed project is KMT Holding and Development, which is owned by Bradly Brown, a Baton Rouge native and former Capitol High School football star, who played for the University of Louisiana-Lafayette a decade ago.
In the years since, Brown has become a real estate developer and investor in a variety of ventures the KMT webpage says. The site lists several projects in the firm’s portfolio, though only three, single-family residential renovations appear to have been completed. The other projects appear to be computer renderings.
There is no text with the images to explain what KMT has done with those projects or where, specifically, they are located.
Brown did not return calls seeking comment.
It is unclear how Broome selected KMT to be the developer for the project. Armstong says the idea “grew organically out of conversations with the developer.”
Hudson questions why a private developer should receive ARP funding from the city-parish.
It is unclear if Broome’s program is at all related to the Louisiana Housing Corporation’s similarly named Housing Heroes program, though they have different missions.
According to the LHC website, Housing Heroes, announced last December, aims to provide immediately available affordable housing opportunities—existing units—for households transitioning from non-congregant shelters and for those impacted by natural disasters.