New Report Shows White-Led Neighborhood Groups Perpetuate Segregation

NEW ORLEANS—Today, the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center released its new report, Delayed Until Downsized or Denied: Neighborhood Associations Lead the Charge Against Affordable Housing and Perpetuate Segregation in New Orleans. The report chronicles how New Orleans elected officials regularly grant unrepresentative, mostly-white neighborhood associations significant power over land use decisions. Since Hurricane Katrina, those groups have wielded that power to help kill 422 apartments for working-class New Orleanians and delay another 184 that might be under construction or completed were it not for sustained opposition. All total, 606 affordable homes are missing in New Orleans because of this Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) opposition.

The report uses publicly available data for over 800 neighborhood association board members, as well as a survey, to reveal that neighborhood association boards are almost always whiter than the neighborhoods they represent.

  • The City as a whole is 31% white and 58% Black, but of the 852 neighborhood association board members whose race could be identified, 60% are white and 35% are Black.
  • In neighborhoods that are only 20%-29% white, neighborhood association board members are 45% white.
  • In neighborhoods that are 30%-39% white, neighborhood association board members are 59% white.

Not surprisingly, white neighborhood association board members are especially overrepresented in the gentrifying and high-opportunity neighborhoods where they have often been responsible for some of the staunchest opposition to affordable housing developments in the past fifteen years. Neighborhood association boards also dramatically over-represent homeowners and people earning more than $100,000 per year.

The report documents multiple instances of white-led neighborhood associations or white homeowners wielding racist dog whistles against mixed-income developments and in many cases, local elected officials attempting to appease them. Among them are a former Tulane Provost who called a proposed development in the Bywater a “ghetto” and Touro-Bouligny neighbors who asserted that a planned senior development would be a “crime magnet,” and inquired about the “ethnic diversity” of the “housing complex.” In addition to the report, LaFHAC also published a webpage today where residents can report instances of NIMBY opposition to affordable housing that may violate the Fair Housing Act.

“This deference to small but well-organized groups of mostly-white homeowners has denied hundreds of New Orleanians affordable homes, but it doesn’t have to be our destiny. Candidates for elected office, as well as current policymakers, must show the public that they’re ready to defend affordable housing and repudiate race-based opposition, and instead seek out the voices representing the majority of this city,” commented Cashauna Hill, Executive Director of the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center.

“We hope this report will also serve as an important reminder that especially in the aftermath of disasters like Hurricane Ida, local governments must prioritize the voices of the most impacted in planning, not just the loudest, best organized groups,” Ms. Hill continued.

The report also lays out policy recommendations for the City Council and the Mayor, including:

  1. Defend affordable housing against NIMBY opposition.
  2. Require the neighborhood associations that wish to be registered with the City’s Office of Neighborhood Engagement and receive Neighborhood Participation Program notices to annually report the racial, gender, and homeowner vs. renter demographics of their boards.
  3. Develop, support, and staff an Affordable Housing Advisory Committee of residents who live in subsidized housing or who are on a waitlist and can participate in public engagement and land use processes related to affordable developments.
  4. Build an equitable community engagement infrastructure that is outlined by ordinance, supported by City funding, and specifically designed for equity.
  5. Further incentivize affordable housing in the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance by fixing the Smart Housing Mix ordinance, providing deeper bonuses for developments that provide more affordability than required, and allowing increased density for smaller developments that provide affordability.
  6. Commit to pairing publicly owned land in high-opportunity neighborhoods with deeper subsidies to develop as many affordable units as the zoning will allow.

See the full report here.

Posted by Maxwell Ciardulloon 10/07/2021and categorized as Blog, Press Releases, Uncategorized