Rep. Mandie Landry’s HB 160 passed during the 2022 legislative session with unanimous support in committees and on the House and Senate floors. In the wake of Hurricanes Laura, Ida and Delta, Louisianans were illegally evicted from their homes before they could return from evacuation and retrieve their belongings. Before passage of HB 160, landlords who broke the law by evicting tenants without going to court faced no penalty. Now, bad actors will face penalties for illegal evictions, renters evacuating from deadly storms won’t be counted as “abandoning” their home, and courts will waive the expensive bonds renters pay to file an injunction to stop an illegal eviction immediately after a storm.
Despite LaFHAC’s advocacy during the 2022 legislative session, the Emergency Housing and Shelter Fund was not included in the Louisiana state budget. Instead, Rep. Jason Hughes introduced and passed HR 194, which requests the Louisiana Housing Corporation to study rising homeless numbers, affordable housing shortages, and potential funding for solutions. This reporting will document the impacts of COVID and Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Ida on housing in Louisiana and will hopefully compel the legislature to fund much needed emergency housing and shelter resources next year. An historic investment in brick and mortar emergency shelters and deeply affordable units will stabilize families and reduce spending in other sectors like healthcare, incarceration, foster care, and education.
Fortunately, there was not a bill in the 2022 legislative session to preempt rental registration programs, and for now local governments can ensure the safety of rental properties through healthy homes initiatives. Registration programs exist in hundreds of large and small cities across the U.S. like Dallas, TX, Manhattan, KS, and Cape Coral, FL. Preempting them in Louisiana would have nullified New Orleans’ ordinance requiring senior living apartments to register with the city and coordinate relief efforts during storms. It was passed after five residents of senior living apartments died during extended power outages after Hurricane Ida. Local governments need all the tools available to keep residents safe during disasters and fight blight and substandard housing.
HB 303 by Rep. Aimee Freeman, which would have added protections for LGBTQ people into state fair housing law, did not pass off of the House floor in the 2022 legislative session. It did, however, make history with a recorded House vote on LGBTQ rights. The bill gained the support of a full third of House members, including several Republicans and all Independents. While the federal government affirms that LGBTQ people are protected under fair housing law, Louisiana state law continues to misinform landlords, mortgage lenders and realtors, telling them they can legally discriminate. Louisiana should bring its laws in line with federal law and that make it clear that this type of discrimination is illegal. Everyone in Louisiana deserves a safe home free of harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Rep. Matt Willard’s Fair Chance in Housing bill (HB 1063) was defeated in the Senate Commerce Committee after consistent opposition from the realtor and apartment association lobbies. All Louisianans should have a safe, stable place to call home, but right now state law allows landlords to discriminate against formerly incarcerated people who have served their time, regardless of their accomplishments since they’ve come home. The Louisiana Legislature should create baseline protections that keep our community safe by reducing recidivism and that ensure formerly incarcerated people have a fair chance at finding a new home or reuniting with their families.