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Alexandria, Louisiana: HUD's Rental Assistance Demonstration Program Transforms Aging Public Housing Projects

Front view of a single-story Harmony Village duplex with a sidewalk in the foreground.
Front view of a single-story home at Harmony Village, with steps leading to a small front porch.
View of the front entrances of two units at Tranquil Estates, with a tree in the foreground and a walkway leading to a front porch with chairs.
View of a front entrance of a Garden Gates home, featuring a concrete walkway leading to a single-story home with multiple windows.
View of the community room in Harmony Village, with tables and chairs in the foreground and a couch and cabinets in the background.
Officials gathered at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of Harmony Garden Estates.


Home > Case Studies > Alexandria, Louisiana: HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration Program Transforms Aging Public Housing Projects


Alexandria, Louisiana: HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration Program Transforms Aging Public Housing Projects


The city of Alexandria in central Louisiana has a poverty rate of approximately 25 percent and an aging public housing stock. In 2016, the Alexandria Housing Authority began converting all of its public housing inventory to affordable housing through HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, which allows public housing agencies to preserve and improve their properties using public and private debt. One of Alexandria Housing Authority’s first comprehensive developments in this transition is Harmony Garden Estates, 172 units of affordable housing spread across 3 sites within the city of Alexandria. The development replaced old and deteriorating structures with sustainable, energy-efficient units that are compatible with the housing in the surrounding single-family neighborhoods. The rehabilitation effort has furthered the city’s resilience plan, connected residents to a nearby employment hub, and fostered collaboration with local law enforcement to improve community policing and public safety. For its preservation of much needed affordable housing in support of community development goals, Harmony Garden Estates received the 2023 Award of Excellence in Community Revitalization from the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials and the 2022 HOME Excellence Award from the National Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies.

Harmony Garden Estates

The three former public housing sites that make up Harmony Garden Estates have been renamed Garden Gates, Harmony Village, and Tranquil Estates. Harmony Village’s 100 units consist of apartments with up to 4 bedrooms. Garden Gates has 37 units ranging from 1 to 5 bedrooms each, and Tranquil Estates consists of 35 units with 1 or 2 bedrooms. All the units are affordable to households earning up to 50 percent of the area median income, and all residents have access to project-based vouchers. Garden Gates and Tranquil Estates are approximately 2 miles apart on the south side of the city, and Harmony Village is approximately 6 miles to the north of the other two developments.

The project designers aimed for the rehabilitated housing to be compatible with the prevailing single-family development in these predominantly low-income neighborhoods and to modernize the properties to improve residents’ quality of life. The original public housing units were constructed in the 1940s for World War II veterans and lacked central heating and air conditioning systems. In addition to adding modern amenities, project developers sought to increase neighborhood connections by incorporating front porches that encourage resident interaction. The apartments feature sustainable flooring; low-flow water fixtures; new energy-efficient appliances; and environmentally sustainable heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. The developers included these cost-saving sustainability features as part of their RAD financing proposal because the projected reduced utility costs allowed them to charge higher rents for these units, generating a higher subsidy for the project. According to Stephan Fontenot, executive director for the Alexandria Housing Authority, the project’s energy efficiency helped realize multiple goals: "We wanted to emphasize sustainability, including features that would not only benefit the environment but also contribute to the well-being and satisfaction of our residents through healthier, more efficient living spaces, thereby improving their quality of life."

The revitalization began with the Alexandria Housing Authority’s pursuit of the RAD program as a way of preserving its deteriorating supply of public housing. The public housing agency partnered with Knight Development (formerly BGC Advantage) to complete the project in 2019. The project aligns with the city’s THINKAlex Resiliency Plan, which was supported by a 2011 resiliency planning grant from the Disaster Recovery Unit within the Louisiana Office of Community Development. The agency also worked closely with the local school district to ensure that residents’ children experienced no disruption in their education as the agency relocated their families during redevelopment.

Supporting the Community

Harmony Garden Estates helps connect residents to community and public safety resources. The developers consulted with local businesses, churches, and law enforcement representatives during the redevelopment process. Feedback from these discussions led the city to improve street lighting, create strategies to mitigate known crime hotspots, and open new economic opportunities for residents. Central Louisiana Technical Community College partnered with the developers to host a job fair promoting openings on the construction team, resulting in more than 350 job placements. The three sites are near a major employment hub consisting of Rapides Parish Coliseum, the England Airpark, and Rapides Regional Medical Center. According to Fontenot, the development offers a range of onsite programs and services, including strategic partnerships with local organizations, to help residents access job training, career development, mental health services, and educational programs.

The larger community’s collaborative engagement with Harmony Garden Estates has extended beyond the project development phase. The community room in Harmony Village, for example, is available to police officers as a hospitality space where they can relax, complete paperwork, and develop stronger relationships with residents. According to the developers, this partnership has encouraged residents to be more proactive in communicating their concerns to law enforcement officers.


The use of RAD to finance Harmony Garden Estates required the coordination and support of several governmental partners. The board of the local public housing agency unanimously approved more than $500,000 for the project, and the state allocated HOME Investment Partnerships funds and provided technical assistance. The Alexandria Housing Authority also contributed a seller take-back note of more than $8 million.

Table 1: Financing for Harmony Garden Estates

First mortgage $5,375,000
Alexandria Housing Authority cash loan 510,000
Alexandria Housing Authority seller note 8,050,000
HOME Investment Partnerships program (through Louisiana Housing Corporation) 2,000,000
Developer equity 299,173
Low-income housing tax credit equity 7,150,940
Total $23,385,113

Revitalizing Alexandria’s Public Housing

Harmony Garden Estates is only one phase of the Alexandria Housing Authority’s $54 million effort to convert its public housing stock to affordable rental housing. The occupancy rate of the development is nearly 98 percent, a sizable increase from 2017. The project’s success has informed new renovation efforts, with a focus on lessons learned from the Harmony Garden Estates community engagement process. According to Fontenot, this first project in the public housing agency’s portfolio conversion effort demonstrated the importance of making sustainability a central feature of future developments.

This article was written by Sage Computing, Inc, under contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.