Affordable housing vs. neighborhood preservation: Bywater housing project raises question

Bywater development plans draw criticism

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Affordable housing versus neighborhood preservation -- that’s the debate at the center of a potential $30 million affordable housing development project in the Bywater.

Right now, before the City Council is a proposed zoning change between Charters, Royal and France street that would allow developers to build a $30 million affordable housing project. But feelings on the potential site and development are split.

“I feel this is immoral, abhorrent act to cloak yourself in altruism which is what ITEX is doing, cloaking in altruism saying we’re buying for affordable housing when in fact it is a money grab,” said one concerned resident at community meeting Monday (April 22).

ITEX is a housing developer out of Houston. The company with the greater New Orleans housing association, or GNOHA, made the presentation for the project Monday. If approved, the lot at 4100 royal street would become a complex with 136 units, 60 percent of which would qualify for affordable housing.

There was a petition circling the meeting claiming residents in the Marigny and Bywater want to preserve the integrity of the neighborhood and therefore oppose the project. Prior to the meeting, the petition had been signed over 500 times.

Some of the opponents, like Bywater resident Mark Gonzalez, said they do support affordable housing, so long as it still allows for the neighborhoods to thrive as they are without changing the culture of the areas.

“It’s not a very walkable friendly place,” Gonzalez said, referring to the development plans. “You see it, it’s like brick walls. So if you were living inside there, the inside units, they don’t have any view.”

However, housing leaders like Andreanecia Morris, president of GNHA, maintained there’s too big of a gap between people looking for a place to live and the affordable housing currently available.

“This is how we commit to ending this crisis, by taking every opportunity we have,” Morris said. “This is public land, there aren’t many ways to get this deep level of affordability for the folks that make this city go. These are the people who work in the tourism industry. This used to be a place where the artists lived and it can be again.”

Councilwoman Kristin Palmer was at the meeting Monday, where there were an excess of people with lingering questions. She said she will be taking all questions and concerns and input on this.

As of Monday, the zoning change has not been approved, but the planning commission did recommend it to go forward.

If approved, the affordable housing project would also need to go through other permit processes before it can break ground.

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