New Orleans’ Affordable Housing Crisis

New Orleans’ Affordable Housing Crisis

Affordable Housing Crisis In New Orleans

The New Orleans City Council made a bold move to address the affordable housing ‘crisis’ that has been growing in New Orleans. In the meeting, the council requested the City Planning Commission to author new rules addressing policies for affordable housing units in neighborhoods throughout the city. Their report will be presented to the council for a final vote next month.

The New Rules

The new rules will favor homeowners, renters and low-income families who are being pushed out of the city because of the decrease in affordable housing developments.

Increasing rents in some neighborhoods have excluded lower-income families from living in areas where they work and go to school. The ruling also will require developers to add affordable units to any new residential projects in specific neighborhoods.

Councilman Jason Williams gave this statement to the New Orleans Advocate after the meeting. "There's no one who would not agree with me that we are in the midst of an affordable housing crisis that is pushing many of our long-term residents to the margins.This is an important first step." Williams is one of two council sponsors supporting the measure requested by Mayor LaToya Cantrell.  

New Orleans’ Affordable Housing Crisis

Affordable Housing In Specific Neighborhoods

Last year, the council put three options before the Planning Commission to consider. The first would require developers to add affordable housing units to new residential projects in specific neighborhoods.

The second would apply the first mandate to developers only if they were requesting a zoning change, and the third offers developers incentives to build affordable housing units but not make it a requirement.

After fully vetting all the options the commission recommended that the council drop the first option, and move forward with the other two choices. However, the council in their meeting made the decision to continue exploring all three options.

Under the direction of Mayor LaToya Cantrell, the national consulting firm, HR&A Advisors, is completing a study next month on policy options. The study will outline which neighborhoods have the biggest need for affordable housing and offer suggestions for incentives for developers.

Councilwoman Cyndi Nguyen said if the council were to make a decision now to drop any of the options before the HR&A study on their feasibility is complete would be “denying ourselves the ability to have all of the information on the table.”

Governor John Bel Edwards has been a supporter of Louisiana cities’ in their efforts to address new housing rules. New Orleans along with other cities have been trying to get a grip on affordable housing since an influx of services like Airbnb and VRBO making short-term rentals (STRs) a lucrative business. Developers and homeowners have rushed to turn long-term housing into short-term rentals for higher profits.

Inclusionary Zoning

Since he took office the governor has held back a legislative push dubbed “inclusionary zoning” to allow more STRs. With no viable solutions coming from cities like Baton Rouge and New Orleans, last year the Governor imposed a deadline for the new rules.

The challenge was issued after the council spent two years talking about but not implementing policy changes. Developers have been protesting the lack of movement that is causing their projects to flounder. If cities are unable to implement the new rules by the deadline he says he will not stop a legislative push to bar “inclusionary zoning.”

The New Orleans City Council members made note that their votes put them on the record as having made good progress on the issue ahead of the governor’s deadline. Residents attending the meeting praised the unanimous vote by the council.

Rev. Melanie Morel-Ensminger on behalf of the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal, who attended the meeting, told the Advocate, “If affordable housing in New Orleans is made voluntary, then no developer will do it.

If affordable housing is made temporary, then when incentives expire, low-income residents and the elderly will be evicted — as we have already seen in the city.”

Addressing The City's Housing Problems

A handful of critics are against the proposed measure and say the will cause homebuilders to invest elsewhere. “If you put restrictions on the development community … the impact that you will have is the (affordable) units will not get built,” said Mark Madderra, representing the Apartment Association of Greater New Orleans.

Councilman Williams with the full support of other council members said the meetings actions are the beginning of an effort by officials to show their commitment to address and act on measures to improve the city’s housing problems.

Other strategies the council is considering includes putting more money into the Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund and, increasing pressure on the Housing Authority of New Orleans to move more quickly in the redevelopment of vacant land under its control.

Councilwoman Helena Moreno said, “This is just a piece of a puzzle. We can’t sit here and say that inclusionary zoning is going to solve all of our problems. But at the same time, I do believe we can make it happen.”

For more information about affordable housing in New Orleans, buying or selling a home, contact your local real estate agent.

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