Back in March, we praised the New Orleans City Council for pushing the Smart Housing Mix one step closer to creating real change for the working people of New Orleans. The Smart Housing Mix ordinance would require any new housing developments of 10 units or more in historic core neighborhoods to include affordable units. With the latest population estimate showing that more New Orleanians are moving out of the city than moving into it, residents need the Smart Housing Mix to combat rising housing costs. The approval of this ordinance in March was a historic step toward ensuring we create high quality affordable units in well-resourced neighborhoods close to job centers.
Unfortunately, the ordinance was passed nine months ago and developers are still not required to include affordable units in their new plans. In order to fully implement the new policy, the Mayor and Council must pass a mapping motion and ordinance that will decide where the requirements apply. So far, the City has focused its efforts on the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement, which formalizes the tax breaks developers will receive in exchange for providing affordable units, without starting the mapping process. Until City Council finalizes all of these remaining steps, this achievement is just words on paper.
Three years ago the city committed to HUD in the Assessment of Fair Housing plan that we would have an inclusionary zoning policy by 2017. The slow pace at which this process has moved gives developers the opportunity to move their projects forward without affordable units, meaning many families will continue to struggle to pay 50% of their income toward rent, risking eviction without any relief.
City Council could begin the mapping process for the Smart Housing Mix to show a good faith effort toward implementation. It’s possible to work on both the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement and the mapping motion, which will be a months-long process, simultaneously.
When areas like the Irish Channel, Treme, and Bywater have seen 30–50 percentage point declines in their share of African Americans, we can’t wait any longer to make all efforts to slow our displacement crisis.