"The majority of rental properties have safety issues ranging from moderate to severe and our team is working diligently with landlords to upgrade these homes."

One month after assuming control of the Housing Choice Voucher (formerly Section 8) program in the City of Plaquemine, East Baton Rouge Parish Housing Authority (EBRPHA) CEO J. Wesley Daniels, Jr. says great progress has been made and EBRPHA is in the process of "establishing working relationships with owners who are implementing the necessary upgrades."

The East Baton Rouge Parish Housing Authority began management operations of the Plaquemine program in February and found "numerous deficiencies," according to Daniels.

"The City of Plaquemine wanted to relinquish management of its Housing Choice Voucher Program and EBRPHA was willing to step in and take charge," Daniels said. "The majority of rental properties have safety issues ranging from moderate to severe and our team is working diligently with landlords to upgrade these homes.

"We are committed to implementing new policies and procedures and bringing the new program up to suitable standards for the people of Plaquemine as soon as possible."

After the EBRPHA team inspected the properties, it met with the current owners to set expectations.

"We are looking forward to working with current and new landlords who are willing to partner with EBRPHA and comply with the standards," Daniels said.

Seeking alternative housing for those currently in substandard situations is also an immediate priority for EBRPHA and Daniels said the organization will handle that situation just as it handled a similar housing crisis at the Elm Grove Apartment Complex in Baton Rouge this past year.

"We plan to be a change agent in the City of Plaquemine just as we have been in East Baton Rouge Parish. We managed to find suitable housing for everybody involved in the Elm Grove situation and we will put forth the same effort and do our best to find replacement housing for residents of Plaquemine," Daniels said.

Linda Johnson, a Plaquemine resident, community leader and landlord said EBRPHA has a lot to offer the residents of Plaquemine which could lead to more positive changes.

"I had my duplex on the Plaquemine City Housing Program which provided steady income on a timely basis," Johnson said. "A year or so ago I heard from the mayor that the city would no longer have a housing program which concerned me.

"Then I heard that the East Baton Parish Housing Authority would be taking over and would be able to establish guidelines for developers to provide more suitable rental properties for Plaquemine. We're also looking forward to the city of Plaquemine and Iberville Parish working together to improve these living conditions and for developers to build additional rental units on vacant properties when opportunity knocks. Having HUD provide the standards will also help us to maintain the current housing market we have for low income rentals."

The City of Plaquemine Housing Choice program consists of 78 vouchers assigned to qualified residents. These residents choose from a combination of single and multi-family rental properties.

Contributed by East Baton Rouge Parish Housing Authority