This year, GNOFHAC’s annual Fit for a King event featured a forum with New Orleans City Council at-large candidates. The forum highlighted the need for policies to increase habitable, safe rental housing, with strong statements of leadership from candidates in both Divisions One and Two.
According to Councilwoman Hedge-Morrell, incumbent for District D and candidate at-large in Division Two, New Orleans is made up of a majority of renters, who are suffering from the blight of substandard housing. Councilwoman Hedge-Morrell called out absentee landlords that failed to maintain property. The Councilwoman also noted many rentals had fallen into disrepair in the aftermath of Katrina, and that the Road Home program’s “Small Rental Repair Program” overlooked many. Hedge-Morrell noted the need to beef up code enforcement to reach a standard of habitability, while providing funding streams for landlords trying to do the right thing.
At-large council candidate Jason Williams shared a similar position, again with a two-fold perspective of providing assistance to people who can’t afford to fix their houses, coupled with accountability and enforcement for those who don’t. Williams also noted the need for adequate code enforcement that’s proactive and meets the needs of neighborhoods, including rentals.
The comments of both Division Two candidates followed those of candidates from Division One, including incumbent Stacy Head, who noted that New Orleans needed a rental registry to make sure every apartment goes through inspection and gets a seal of approval.
Councilwoman Head noted that in other cities, rentals are affirmatively inspected for basic habitability standards. Head mentioned third party operators that ran similar programs in other cities, and stressed the importance of options for owners of substandard rental properties. “People should be held to a higher standard if they’re making money on a property and providing housing,” Head concluded.
The event marked the first time every candidate in the race made a strong public statement of support for better code enforcement for rentals.
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