Project Home Again Fulfills Promise to Build 100 Homes in New Orleans

Six years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans and its residents, Project Home Again (PHA), the non-profit housing development organization, founded and funded by Leonard and Louise Riggio, will commemorate the fulfillment of its promise to support New Orleans rebuilding efforts, with a ceremony for the 101st and final home. All of the homes have been given free and clear, including furnishings of the families’ choosing.

Deeply affected by the profound impact of Hurricane Katrina on the residents of New Orleans, the Riggios founded Project Home Again in 2005, pledging to build homes to bring displaced low- and middle-income families back to their neighborhoods. The 101 energy-efficient, single-family homes built throughout the Gentilly neighborhoods, represent the largest privately-funded residential rebuilding program post-Katrina.

“As a result of the heartbreaking devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, we set out to make well some of the deserving families who lost everything to the storm,” said Leonard Riggio. “Although our original goal was to build 100 homes, today we celebrate Number 101, in the spirit of ‘lagniappe’ –the local tradition of giving more than expected. It is also a way of saying thanks to the beautiful people of this great city who have opened their hearts to us, and gave us a place to call home, as well.”

“From the outset, we had three main objectives: First, to build homes which were seamless with the architectural tradition of their neighborhood and city; second, to eliminate waste and excess overhead in order to maximize the number of homes which could be built; and third, to provide our homes cost free, given the devastating losses suffered by the families,” Mr. Riggio added. “Many thanks are owed to Carey Shea, Executive Director, Oji Alexander, Project Manager, and Erica Toriello, Program Officer, for their commitment to and leadership of Project Home Again.”

On Friday, November 11, the Riggios will host a press conference and hang a wreath on the door of the 101st home at 6009 Wildair Road to commemorate the achievement of the PHA mission. The Reverend Dr. Joan S. Parrott, Executive Minister of the First Baptist Church of Hampton, VA, will bless the new home and Mayor Landrieu and Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell will speak at the event, which will begin at 10:00 a.m. CST. Joyful’s Spirit of New Orleans, a local Gospel choir that was formed to raise money for struggling New Orleans musicians and their families in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, will give a short performance at the event. Later in the evening, the Riggios will host a gala celebration for PHA families. Legendary singer Tony Bennett will perform at the private event.

“Rebuilding a city demands time, patience and collaboration across the public and private sectors,” said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “Len and Louise Riggio never wavered in their commitment. They delivered on their promise. The Riggios’ generosity and steadfastness have made a huge difference to the city and citizens of New Orleans.”

Project Home Again would also like to thank The Salvation Army, The Greater New Orleans Foundation and The Winingder Family for their support.

The 101 homes were built throughout the Gentilly neighborhoods most devastated by the storm, including St. Anthony and St. Bernard. The craftsman-style, hurricane-resistant homes were designed to integrate into the style of the neighborhood and the city. Each house is elevated above the minimum base flood elevations and includes termite-resistant framing, low-e windows and insulation techniques that enable 40 percent less energy use than comparable houses in the region.

In 2008, families began moving into PHA homes and today 75 of the homes are occupied by deserving families. Applications for the remaining houses are complete and under review.

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