On Tuesday, March 26th, 2019, community members filled the Robert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design for a conversation on New Orleans’ Eviction Geography. Professor Davida Finger of Loyola Law School, the main researcher responsible for the three-year study, opened the panel by explaining the need for residents of New Orleans to reframe housing as a right, and not as an investment – urging folks to picture a new system, not a system based on the remnants of a broken one.
The panel discussed maps outlining evictions in various New Orleans neighborhoods. Professor Finger and Breonne DeDecker of Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative (JPNSI), the main organizational partner of the study, spoke to the need for empirical data to prove statistically that the crisis many are feeling in the city is a real, concrete problem. As the Executive Summary of the report states: “Since 2000, when controlling for inflation, rents have risen 49% while incomes have seen an 8% decrease in the same period.” Further, the report states: “While some residents might find themselves gradually being priced out of a neighborhood, others face a more sudden kind of displacement: eviction.”
Hannah Adams of Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, also a panel member, discussed the landlord-tenant laws in Louisiana, which are some of the least progressive in the country. In Louisiana, someone can be forced out of their home with a total turnaround of one week, from eviction notice to removal from the property. Further, someone living on a month-to-month lease can be asked to vacate the premises within 10 days of the end of the month, whereas many other states require 30 or 60-day notices. Ms. Adams emphasized that Louisiana landlord-tenant laws provide many options and areas of recourse for the landlord, but very few for tenants.
Another important point that the panelists emphasized was the connection between this problem and the history of racist housing policy within the United States. People of color are disproportionately displaced and evicted, as the report shows. Now that we have such clear evidence of the extent of the eviction crisis in our community, what can we do about it? The report, which can be found here, provides several policy recommendations based on other cities that have gone through similar eviction crises. However, these policies cannot be passed without community engagement, which was stressed by JPNSI Lead Organizer, Frank Southall. He urged folks to get engaged with the Renters’ Rights Assembly, call their councilmembers regarding the passage of the Smart Housing Mix and other policies that would work to curb our eviction crisis.
For more information on JPNSI or the Renters’ Rights Assembly, contact Frank Southall at 504-517-5470 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For legal assistance for low income folks facing eviction, contact Southeast Louisiana Legal Services at 504-529-1000 or visit their office at 1340 Poydras Street, Suite #600, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70112. For updates on policy initiatives to provide more affordable and accessible housing for New Orleans, sign up for our mailing list here.