A D'Iberville church objected. So did neighbors who live off Suzanne Drive. Yet the D'Iberville Planning Commission overwhelmingly endorsed plans for a 96 unit apartment complex just down the street from city hall. The plans came from the Real Tex Development Corporation. It's ready to spend $12 million to bring affordable housing to a property just down the street from D'Iberville City Hall.
Deonne Olier is familiar with the Real Tex proposal. As D'Iberville Planning Director, Olier maps out her city's growth opportunities. Lately, she's learned a lesson so many other planners have learned about their communities and affordable housing.
"They understand that the working people need housing," she said, referring to the residents in her city. "It's just that they don't want it in their backyard."
Yet Tuesday night, an affordable housing project got approved by the D'Iberville Planning Commission. It's a complex that turns nine acres of land around Hughes Supply into the Timber Grove Apartments.
Jeff Taylor does planning work for the city.
"If there's going to be a place for affordable, mixed use, high density housing, really it's going to be in this area that should take that on," he said, looking at a map that showed the Auto Mall Parkway property where the apartments could be built.
At the back end of the proposed apartment complex is a ditch that developers agreed to make improvements to. Beyond the ditch is a subdivision. A few homeowners did complain to the planning commission about the project. However, the land adjacent to Auto Mall Parkway is properly zoned for apartments. And Taylor says since Katrina, it's the kind of project a city like his must attract.
"Guess what, people start living in a place, then businesses will follow," he said.
The location of the apartment complex is near the Auto Mall Parkway/D'Iberville Boulevard intersection. And it's often very congested.
"The city is trying to help out with the traffic. And the developers are, too," Olier said.
D'Iberville planners required the Real Tex group to buy additional land and add a second entrance to its proposal. Once that was done, the planning commission okayed the concept.
"I think the developers are trying to do the best they can to make the situation better," said Olier.
Developers have told D'Iberville that rent at their apartments will range from $435-$600 a month. The city council still must approve the affordable housing plans. A date for that vote hasn't been set.
Ironically, the planning commission's approval comes just as a new report criticizes both Mississippi and Louisiana for its focus on affordable housing. The report issued by the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana and the Rockefeller Institute of Government says housing recovery programs in the two gulf coast states have not "provided the hoped-for spark to rebuilding efforts."