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. Currently, there are no consequences for illegal evictions. Landlords are required by law to go through the courts to evict tenants, but when they break the law, they face no penalty. The legislature should add a penalty for illegal evictions so bad actors face consequences for bad behavior. In addition, renters evacuating from deadly storms shouldn’t be counted as “abandoning” their home and courts should waive the expensive bonds renters pay to file an injunction to stop an illegal eviction immediately after a storm.
The dual disasters of COVID-19 and hurricanes brought a sharp increase in homelessness in Louisiana with unprecedented numbers of families and children living in cars and tents. The governor and legislature should allocate $300 million of state’s remaining American Rescue Plan dollars to a fund that will support families at the greatest risk of homelessness. This historic investment will stabilize families and generate positive outcomes across a number of other sectors like healthcare, incarceration, foster care, and education.
It’s essential for local governments to ensure the safety of rental properties, especially during and after disasters. Any effort by the Louisiana Legislature to preempt rental registration programs, which allow local governments to understand where rental homes are and who is responsible for them, would endanger residents and neighborhoods. 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 also nullify New Orleans’ new 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.
Everyone in Louisiana deserves a safe home free of harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 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 join the majority of states that make it clear that this type of discrimination is illegal.
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.