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All Roads Lead Home

November 12, 2021
Nicole Barnes
Nicole Barnes

When you’ve spent much of your professional life helping families achieve the “American Dream,” many of whom never thought it was attainable, you can’t help but get a little emotional. I have helped hundreds of families purchase homes of their own over the course of my career and it is an absolute privilege to play a small part in something so transformative to their lives for generations to come.

Over the years, and in my current role as executive director of Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative, I’ve asked these prospective homebuyers “why do you want to buy a house?”, and the overwhelming majority answered “I want to give my children a better life,” or “I want to have something to pass on to my children.” The basic answer was the same, making a better life for those who come after us is a desire so fundamental to most of us. Homeownership is that vehicle. It is such an integral piece in the building and passing on of generational wealth, and it’s a piece that has been lacking in communities of color for far too long.

Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative’s mission is to provide low-to–moderate income families with the opportunity to build assets and create generational wealth through homeownership. Since our founding in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, we have created healthy and energy-efficient affordable homes beginning in our anchor neighborhood of Central City in New Orleans, Louisiana, and now expanding our reach and impact to communities across the state. Over the past fifteen years, we’ve partnered with residents and other stakeholders to help build thriving neighborhoods by creating livable spaces and promoting residential stability and cohesion.

Nicole - All Roads

While there have been enormous investments made in the region since that fateful day in 2005, the need for affordable housing, exacerbated by the pandemic and now Hurricane Ida, has grown and, conversely, the requisite resources to do this work have continued to shrink. This confluence of forces has necessitated that nonprofits become more creative and innovative in order to do more with less.

In 2014, Jericho Road employed a new approach to capitalize on our housing development activities, through New Market Tax Credits. As a local entity working on behalf of New Orleanians, we needed to do business with a local financial institution that understood the mission and work of the organization. That local entity proved to be Hancock Whitney. After acquiring our bridge loan from another company, Hancock Whitney worked with us to tailor a loan structure that was optimal for our business model and needs. Our relationship has only grown over the years, including other projects like an owner-occupied repair program for seniors and mortgage lending products for our homebuyers.

Further, Jericho Road has the privilege of Hancock Whitney associates serving on our Board of Directors. Currently, Ashley Aubrey Harrison, Vice President for Community Affairs brings invaluable background, expertise and understanding of the complexities of affordable housing finance to our organization.

In the wake of Hurricane Ida’s devastation across much of Southeast Louisiana, Jericho Road is looking to do even more to respond to the community’s needs. We are currently working on disaster response by assisting families as they navigate insurance challenges and other problems that arise in the recovery process. We want to ensure that people have the resources available to preserve their greatest asset: Their home.

With Hancock Whitney as a partner, we can assist families through the various resource options available to them, such as the Opportunity Mortgage Loan. With most communities of color lacking access to funding and programs designed for them and their needs, this is a necessary step in providing opportunities for more families to find the home of their dreams or maintain the home they already own.

With over 250 families and counting, Jericho Road, in partnership with stakeholders like Hancock Whitney, plans to continue to afford the opportunity of homeownership to communities that have been historically left behind. Helping these families build assets and create generational wealth is my passion and I am assured that this work is what I was meant to do. I look forward to many more years of being able to help turn their dreams into reality.