Leonard Riggio, founder and Chairman of Barnes & Noble, Inc., recently announced his plans to build one hundred more homes in the Gentilly section of New Orleans, Louisiana. The announcement, made at New Orleans City Hall, represents the next step in an initiative that has built and furnished houses for more than one hundred families left homeless by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
After constructing 101 energy-efficient, single-family homes in Gentilly last year, Project Home Again, a nonprofit, housing development organization created by The Leonard and Louise Riggio Foundation, plans to construct another one hundred homes by Spring 2014. Supported by a $20 million gift from the Riggios, the donation represents the largest privately funded residential rebuilding program since Katrina struck the Gulf State.
Although more than seven years have passed since the hurricane ravaged New Orleans, “the need (for affordable housing) is great,” said Brian Lawlor, the city’s director of Housing Policy and Community Development, who said Project Home Again is the largest privately funded single home-building project in New Orleans.
Unlike the Make It Right project, which focused on environmentally friendly and energy efficient designs, or Habitat for Humanity, which built homes for local musicians using largely volunteer labor, Project Home Again is using architecture that blends into the neighborhood and targets people with modest incomes who had been homeowners before Katrina. The new homes, which are designed to blend in with existing housing, “will look like they’ve been there for 100 years, which was, of course, is our objective,” Riggio said.
Riggio chose Gentilly for the project “because it is a working-class community,” he said. “We thought working-class people were the fabric and the culture and the backbone of this city.”
For more information on Project Home Again, visit www.projecthomeagain.net.