Jim Tucker, R-Algiers

By Ariella Cohen, The Lens staff writer |

Two years after House Speaker Jim Tucker (R-Algiers) pushed for a moratorium on state subsidies for affordable housing, a board he sits on has awarded $10 million in state-backed  approved tax-exempt bond money so a nonprofit can buy an apartment complex Tucker owns.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that bonds approved for the Jackson’s Landing North project were backed by the state, and constituted a state subsidy for the project.  In fact, while the state must approve all issuances of Multifamily Housing Revenue Bonds because of a federal limit on how many tax-exempt bonds can be issued in each state, Louisiana taxpayers carry no liability for the housing revenue bonds at issue.  The earlier version of the story also reported that Tucker’s company had asked the Louisiana Housing Finance Authority to reallocate tax credits to finance a redevelopment of Jackson’s Landing South.  In fact, the Housing Authority of New Orleans had approached the finance authority with a request to use tax credits at Jackson’s Landing South, after consulting with and getting approval of Tucker’s company and a trust whose beneficiaries are Tucker’s daughters. These changes are reflected in the story below.

The $10 million issuance approved Thursday by the Louisiana Bond Commission will help the Jericho Housing Corporation acquire the north side of Jackson’s Landing, a 571-unit Algiers development Tucker owns through a limited liability company, Garden Oaks Holding.

The housing corporation plans to renovate the 273-unit north side complex, reserving a portion for low-income renters, and reinstate amenities that Tucker’s company has been unable to get back up and running since Hurricane Katrina, said Tucker, who is running for Secretary of State.

His company will still own the south side of the development.

One day before the Bond Commission vote on Jackson Landing North,  after being denied permission earlier this week to sell the units to the Housing Authority of New Orleans for redevelopment funded with tax credits the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency denied a request from the Housing Authority of New Orleans to allocate between $1.1 million and $1.5 million in low-income housing tax credits to renovations at Jackson Landing South.

Tucker, who is a member of the Bond Commission, did not attend Thursday’s  meeting and recused himself from the vote because of his interest in the outcome.

“There is no conflict,” Tucker said.  “The law is especially clear. A buyer can buy a property. I am just a seller. I just have to recuse myself, which is what I did.”

“It’s a very vanilla deal. No big deal.”

The developer-turned-politician made headlines in 2009 with a push to block construction of new affordable units in Orleans Parish. His reasoning? There was an “excess supply,” he said, according to The Times-Picayune. Despite his call for a moratorium, one was never put in place and all of the housing projects that requested bonds from the Louisiana Bond Commission — and received support from Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration — eventually received them, Tucker said.

This week, Tucker defended the bond commission’s decision to approve public subsidy  state-approved  tax-exempt bonds for the purchase of his property. The difference between Jackson’s Landing and the projects he sought to stop back in 2009 is that Jackson’s Landing is an existing complex so the redevelopment will not increase supply.

“This is an upgrade,” he said.  “No new units will be created.”

The overall market, he said, has also improved.

This isn’t the first time public subsidy  support has been sought for Jackson’s Landing. In 2007, Tucker pursued tax credits for post-Katrina repairs. An ethics complaint was filed against him for an alleged ethics violation based on his conflict of interest as a state legislator.  The Louisiana Board of Ethics voted 9-2 to dismiss the case, but Tucker never used the credits.