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Housing program focused on first responders helps NOPD officer become first-time homeowner

by Tyler Gamble, Aaron Looney

May 3, 2016

Categories: Community, Videos

Topics: Community Policing

Tanisha Sykes is a New Orleans native, a mother of three and an accomplished detective in the NOPD Homicide Division. But there’s one title she’s been after for a while now—homeowner.

“I have been renting ever since I can remember,” said Sykes. “I wanted to have my own home so my family and I could have something stable.”

Like many first-time homebuyers, Sykes had a budget and she knew where she wanted to live. But navigating the real estate market in New Orleans can be challenging. She needed enough room for her kids—ages 16, 13 and 3—a yard and a good community. An affordable price wouldn’t hurt either.

That’s when the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) stepped in with a new program that helped Sykes turn her dream into a reality. Modeled after a federal housing initiative, NORA’s “First Look” program gives first responders in New Orleans an opportunity to look at new homes available for purchase through its development partners.

“We thought it was a good way to have our first responders live in our community and to give them an opportunity to be on the front lines of achieving the American dream of home ownership,” said Jeffrey Hebert, Executive Director of NORA.

Last year, NORA partnered with six local developers to build more than 50 affordable, energy-efficient homes in neighborhoods across New Orleans, including Gentilly, Filmore Gardens, Mid-City and Eastern New Orleans. Through its Residential Construction Lending program, NORA was able to provide low interest loans to the developers to help reduce the cost of construction. NORA also offered a reduced purchase price for properties sold to the developers from NORA’s inventory, further reducing the cost of development. Once completed, each home is made available for sale to eligible households.

Many of those homes are now on the market. For Sykes, the first look at a home in Gentilly was the only look she needed. Additional help with a down payment and closing costs helped her seal the deal.   

“It feels so good. I can finally say I’m not working to pay someone else’s rent anymore,” said Sykes. “I’m investing in my future and the future of my children. We have to start getting back into our neighborhoods and putting our children in our neighborhoods where they can grow up together.”

Hebert says the goal is to make first responders part of the reinvestment in New Orleans neighborhoods.

“We want them to be a part of rebuilding the city of New Orleans, and we think the best way for us to contribute to that is to offer these housing opportunities to our first responders.”

For more information on how to take advantage of the program, log on to or call 504-658-4400.