New Orleans is a city of neighborhoods, so when Danira Ford talks about “home,” she means the Gentilly neighborhood. Ford has spent most of her life in Gentilly: growing up on Pressburg Street in a family home, attending F.W. Gregory Junior High School and graduating from John F. Kennedy Senior High School.
“I’m from Gentilly just like my mom,” Ford says. “I’ve lived here almost my entire life, but now I’m being priced out, and I can’t afford to live here anymore.”
Ford isn’t alone. More than half of all renters in New Orleans are considered cost burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and a high percentage of those are severely cost burdened, spending 50 percent or more of their incomes on housing.
A single mother with five children, Ford recently returned to the Pressburg home, but it’s under very unfavorable conditions. Unable to find an affordable apartment anywhere in New Orleans, much less Gentilly, she and her kids sleep in a single bedroom.
Last year, the family was forced to live in the Salvation Army Shelter until Ford managed to secure temporary rental assistance for a three-bedroom home in New Orleans East. But when the assistance ran out, she had no choice but to go back to the Pressburg house.
Ford recalls a time when Gentilly, like most New Orleans neighborhoods, was affordable, but that was long ago. She saw housing prices rising during the Hurricane Katrina recovery, and now it’s simply untenable for many working class families.
“Either you work like 80 hours a week, or you could end up under the bridge,” Ford says.
While New Orleans’ affordable housing crisis has existed for many years, 2019 could be the year that the City Council does something about it. The proposed Smart Housing Mix ordinance would mandate a percentage of all new or significantly rehabbed housing developments (10 or more units) include a percentage of affordable units.
Ford hopes that the City Council will pass the measure. If they fail to do that, however, it’s reached a point where she thinks that the only way for her and her children to succeed is by moving out of New Orleans. What’s frustrating about leaving is that her older kids are getting a quality education from Morris Jeff Community School, and then there are the intangibles.
“When it comes to moving, I’m afraid of the unknown—what can happen to us without family and no roots?” Ford asks.
We need to take action now to stop our neighbors like Ms. Ford and her children from being priced out. Please call your City Councilmember and both At-Large Councilmembers today to tell them to vote YES on the Smart Housing Mix. Find Councilmembers’ phone numbers here: https://council.nola.gov/councilmembers/.