A idea for new program to help New Orleans musicians and artists buy homes emerged nearly two years ago during a Big Easy lunch.
Willie Spears, the president of Hibernia Community Development Corp., and Wali Abdel-Raoof, the executive director of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, were discussing ways Hibernia National Bank could assist local musicians.
After they had batted a few other ideas around, Mr. Spears said in an interview Tuesday, he mentioned helping musicians with housing.
He was talking about helping them pay the rent, but Mr. Abdel-Raoof was adamant that the focus should be on buying homes.
Unlike people in other careers, noted Sharon Martin, the jazz foundations project director, musicians dont have a steady income, which makes it difficult for them to buy homes.
Of course, Mr. Spears said, you always hear about those that make lots of money. But rarely do you hear about those that provide wonderful music to the city and are not so rich and famous. And thats who we are aiming to help.
Hibernia, the jazz foundation, Dryades Savings Bank, Fannie Mae, and the City of New Orleans have committed a total of $1.5 million to the Raising the Roof initiative, which was announced last week.
The two banks are developing the homes scheduled to be finished in a year and Hibernia is providing interim construction financing at no interest.
The sponsors plan to build or renovate only 10 houses through Raising the Roof this year, but they hope to work on many more in coming years.
We have no intention of stopping, Mr. Spears said. But after these first 10 we will probably sit down and analyze the program to see if there is room for improvement before we move forward.
The homebuyers will work with either $16.7 billion-assert Hibernia or $105 million-asset Dryades to set up mortgages to fit their finances.
Fannie, which has worked with Hibernia on many projects, will buy the mortgages from the lenders and will commit $10,000 to the Jazz and Heritage Foundation to help the homebuyers with financing costs. Additionally, the foundation will provide $2,500 per home to help cover the down payment.
Mr. Spears said the homes are meant for artists in general, not just musicians, but Ms. Martin said even that condition would be interpreted very broadly.
There are no formal income limits, but buyers who make 80% or less of New Orleans Parrishs median could receive additional assistance from Hibernia and Dryades and a $25,000 deferred mortgage from the city. (The $25,000 would be forgiven if the buyer stayed in the home for 10 years.)
Just since the program was announced, the foundation has received numerous inquiries from musicians and artists who have dreams of homeownership, Ms. Martin said. Review of applications will start in mid-May, she said.
Gary Williams, deputy director of Fannies Louisiana Partnership Office, said Fannie has never before participated in a housing assistance program specifically for musicians and artists.
It simulates investment activity and opportunity, which is consistent with our mission to increase homeownership, Mr. Williams said. What better way to do it in a city known for its musical heritage?