Supporters, opponents weigh in on Smart Housing Mix Ordinance study

Supporters, opponents weigh in on Smart Housing Mix Ordinance study before City Planning Commission

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The City Planning took public comment Tuesday on proposals that aim to improve the affordable housing picture in the city.

The discussion on the eighth floor of City Hall focused on the Smart Housing Mix Ordinance Study. The City Council had previously approved a motion directing the City Planning Commission to conduct a study, as officials believe affordable housing has reached crisis level.

Recommendations include a requirement that developers set aside 12 percent of the housing units in a new development in some of the most attractive neighborhoods in the city for low-income residents. In return, developers would get incentives, including tax abatements and parking reductions, to help defray the cost of providing affordable units. The affordability term would be between 50 and 99 years.

"Make this city more inclusive for all folks and also lead to sustainability," said Steve Kennedy, who spoke in favor of the recommendations during the City Planning Commission meeting.

"We owe it to the people who have made our city so special, right? The culture bearers, the musicians, the people who support our service-based economy. We owe it to them to try our best to make sure that they can continue to live here, and the Smart Housing Mix, that plan is a positive step in the right direction," said Cashauna Hill, executive director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center.

She said the agency was involved on the ground floor in shaping the recommendations.

"It's certainly no secret that we are in the midst of an affordability crisis. At this point, we have well over half o the renters in this city that are paying more than 30-percent of their monthly income toward housing costs and so with the crisis at that level we've got to do something," said Hill.

The commission also heard from a handful of opponents who expressed serious reservations about the study's recommendations.

"Boiler plate mandatory inclusionary zoning ordinances from other cities are not going to begin to resolve our affordability problems. If the city really wants to address our affordability problems let's sit down and do it as a community," said Rita Bautista with the Homebuilders Association of Greater New Orleans.

The study is only the first step. The City Planning Commission's staff said further steps would be needed to make the recommendations reality, including City Council approval of zoning and code ordinances.

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