While there’s no debating that New Orleans is in the grip of an affordable housing crisis, there are still some people arguing that more give-aways to real estate developers will somehow correct the problem.
Let’s be very clear: including affordable housing in every new housing development or renovation must be the law, not an option and not voluntary. Developers have proven with their inaction that they will not voluntarily be a part of the solution.
Fair market rents have risen by 50 percent since 2000 while wages remain stagnant, and there are currently 35,000 people on a waiting list for subsidized housing. Even though the City Council previously offered developers voluntary incentives to hold some apartments affordable to average worker, developers haven’t taken advantage of it. That’s why the City Planning Commission (CPC) staff argued in their 2017 study that New Orleans needs the Smart Housing Mix ordinance, which would require apartment and condo developers to include affordable units in their new buildings. The study cited 500 jurisdictions with similar policies before recommending a balanced approach of mandating affordable units while also offering zoning or tax incentives for developers to build these units.
Only Initiative 2 is mandatory
In August the Council directed the CPC staff to provide text amendments to the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, which sets the rules and regulations for all property development in New Orleans, in order to add in three potential Smart Housing Mix initiatives. While all three initiatives were described as “mandatory,” only the second initiative really is.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the three initiatives:
Initiatives one and three should really be considered voluntary, because both would allow developers to build projects without any affordable units as long as they weren’t seeking a zoning change or flexible regulations. The 2017 CPC study concluded that only initiative two—the Smart Housing Mix—with its mandatory inclusion of affordable units, will effectively produce the homes that our people need to continue calling New Orleans home.
The CPC recently completed its work, and the next step will be for the City Council to vote on the three initiatives. If you want the Smart Housing Mix to truly be effective, please call your Councilmember today and tell them that we can only fix the mix if initiative two is passed.