Senior Apartments Becoming a Reality
During the depths of the Great Depression, a group of Baptist ministers led by Isaiah Vincent began buying land for an apartment building where seniors could live out their waning years without worrying about high rents and unscrupulous landlords.
Those ministers never managed to find the money to build the place, but Vincent passed the dream on to his son-in-law and his grandson after that — all of them pastors of New Home Missionary Baptist Church. Seventy years after that dream was conceived, his grandson has finally made it real.
The Rising Sun Missionary Baptist Association, a coalition of churches founded by Vincent and led by his grandson, W.H. Jenneford, recently began building 33 apartments for seniors who are able to live on their own but cannot afford the inflated rents that have prevailed across the city since Hurricane Katrina.
“When people come to a certain age, it becomes difficult for those who do not own their own property to pay to take care of that responsibility,” Jenneford said. “You find in many instances that when people become elderly, they also become the extreme poor.”
While the goal of helping distressed seniors remained constant across three generations, today the Rising Sun apartments might also serve as a spark plug for the surrounding blocks in the Lower 9th Ward, where seemingly few residents have managed to return since the storm.
James Neville, the developer working with the ministers, said the Rising Sun association might move in the future to rehabilitate some of the vacant houses across the street from the apartments, located at 1420 Charbonnet St.
“It’s kind of empty now,” Neville said. “We’re hopeful that we’re going to act as a catalyst for that neighborhood. Once it gets built and we start moving tenants in, we hope things will begin to take off.”
Neville, president of Neville Development, said the building would rise three stories and consist entirely of new construction. All of the apartments are one-bedrooms or efficiencies that will rent for about $350 to $400 a month — no more than 30 percent of a resident’s annual income.
While the ministers endeavored for years to raise money through their congregations, much of the financing for the project will come from low-income housing tax credits through the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency. A company called the Richman Group will purchase the tax credits, and Fannie Mae will serve as one of the end users of the credits.
The developer has also applied for a $475,000 grant from the city of New Orleans.
Jenneford said this week that he is elated to fulfill his grandfather’s vision for the apartments, which he expects to open later this year.