We’ve come a long way, and we’re not done yet!
In 1978, Finance New Orleans began under the name of the New Orleans Home Mortgage Authority with the help of Councilman Bod Bagert, Senator Ben Bagert Jr and New Orleans City Council.
Exposing pent-up demand for homeownership
Long lines celebrated the Authority’s first bond issue in the Spring of 1979 with potential homeowners camped out on the sidewalks of participating lenders—some in sleeping bags. The creation of loan products at low interest rates made homeownership more affordable and exposed the pent-up demand for homeownership in New Orleans. More than 1,000 families became homeowners with the help of these first bond issues.
Providing a challenge to high interest rates and costs
As home mortgage rates grew to 17%, demand for the New Orleans Home Mortgage Authority programs grew. However, the commitment of the Board of Trustees to meet the demand was severely challenged when bond insurance premiums skyrocketed, making the cost of issuing bonds very high. In the face of these challenges, the Board continued to produce bond issues that were approximately two percentage points below market rates.
Providing affordable rental properties and coping with tighter regulations
While meeting the challenges of high interest rates and high cost of mortgage loan funds, the Board of Trustees also saw a need to help meet the demand for affordable rental housing. The Board provided $37,805,000 of low-interest financing to developers to build four new apartment complexes with hundreds of affordable rental units.
During this same period, the U.S. Congress imposed new and more restrictive regulation governing the issuance of bonds and the origination of mortgage loans in an effort to more closely control the Savings and Loan industry and balance the U.S. budget. These restrictions continue to increase the cost of issuing bonds and origination mortgages. Nevertheless, with the help of our lenders, the Authority continued to issue successful bond programs to help our citizens realize their dream of homeownership.
Bringing hope in the midst of economic slowdown
As the New Orleans economy sunk to depressive lows, the mortgage market could not support large single-family mortgage revenue bond issues as it did in previous years. Nevertheless, the Board of Trustees continued to pursue its mission by introducing its PRIDE Down payment and Closing Cost Assistance Program, which fulfilled the dreams of hundreds of first-time homebuyers.
The Authority also moved to support the homebuyer training efforts of the Neighborhood Development Foundation and the Neighborhood Housing Services to change the City’s profile for high delinquencies. In 1991, the Authority began requiring homebuyer education as a prerequisite for participating in the mortgage and down payment assistance programs.
Making more homeownership dreams come true
In 1995, Mayor Marc Morial introduced the Impact Neighborhood Strategy (INS) and asked the Authority to administer the INS efforts of the area’s banks. Through this program, the City’s CDBG/HOME subsidies were leveraged for the first time with the Authority’s bond programs to produce neighborhood revitalization.
The Authority also sought ways to incentivize City employees and moderate-income families to remain in Orleans Parish. As a result, the first-time homebuyer rule was removed to enable present homebuyers to buy-up, usually leaving behind a starter home for first-time homebuyers. This change broadened the inclusivity of the program, and many public employees took advantage of the program benefits.
In addition to this innovation, the Authority became the first in the country to use its customers’ mortgage pre-payments to create new bond issues for other homebuyers.
New name and new powers
Having built significant capacity in financial administration and bond issuance, the City Council and State Bond Commission authorized the Authority to expand its powers to the fullest extent of the Louisiana Trust Code. These expanded powers allowed the Authority to finance industrial development and capital needs of 501(c)(3) organizations, i.e. universities and hospitals. With this new capacity, the Authority changed its name to The Finance Authority of New Orleans.
In 2002, The Finance Authority issued $35 million in bond financing for major capital improvements at Xavier Univesity, and also purchased a 263-unit apartment complex to be sold back into the private sector to be a model for multifamily housing in eastern New Orleans.