New Orleans receives ‘F’ on affordable housing report card for third year in a row

“Why does the thing that everybody has to have... the thing that we don’t have any standards around?”
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 10:05 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - With higher housing costs and stagnant wages, New Orleans is facing a housing affordability crisis that has netted the city an “F” on affordable housing from HousingNOLA’s annual report card for the third straight year.

HousingNOLA, which was formed in 2014, is a local coalition of residents and non-profits dedicated to solving the issues surrounding the lack of affordable housing in the city. The group issued a 10-year plan, which involves public and private organizations and community leaders working together to solve the city’s housing crisis.

The 2022 report card graded the city an “F,” scoring it as failing in six of the seven goals laid out in the plan. HousingNOLA says the median rent has risen to $1,082 and the median income in the city has decreased by almost $4,000 since 2019.

Andreanecia Morris, Executive Director of HousingNOLA, said the city, yet again, received an “F” because of lack of movement by leadership to take basic steps toward creating more affordable housing in New Orleans.

“We have plenty of room,” Morris said. “There’s vacant property, blighted homes, empty houses in every corner of this city, and that kind of imbalance is what causes all of these problems that plays out in your home, in my home.”

Calling New Orleans a “non-functioning market” because of the ample supply of vacant residential units and blighted property yet high housing costs, Morris said the city’s lack of affordable housing has ripple effects on everything from homelessness to crime to Louisiana’s ongoing insurance crisis.

“It doesn’t make any sense. It’s not obeying any laws of any economic theory that anybody can name,” Morris said. “It’s just broken.”

City council is currently considering an ordinance called “Healthy Homes,” which Councilman Freddie King said is designed to protect tenants.

“We have too many residents in this city who are renting, who live in subpar living conditions,” King said. “We’re talking about mold, rodents, leaking pipes.”

King said in a renter-majority city like New Orleans, “slumlords” have been allowed to operate without action from the city for too long.

“This is something that’s going to give us as a council teeth and authority to make changes that’s needed to make sure those who rent in this city have a healthy home,” he said.

Morris said “Healthy Homes” is a step in the right direction, requiring property owners to register their different rental properties with the city, renewing the “license” annually for a small fee.

The city would create a database, where information on past inspections and violations would be able to be viewed publicly.

The legislation would also require basic essentials for a property to be licensed, including running water, AC, properly maintained electrical systems, water heaters, adequate roofs and walls and pest control.

“It’s basically a licensing protocol for property owners. We’re saying hey, this is a business, and your business needs to be licensed, it needs to meet certain standards,” Morris said. “Everyone has to have somewhere to live. So why does the thing that everybody has to have, why is that the thing that we don’t have any standards around? Why is that the thing that we won’t make sure meets basic habitability standards?”

Morris also pointed to HousingNOLA’s Own the Crescent program, which provides small landlords with funds to retrofit their rental properties to come up to basic inhabitability standards.

As wages remain stagnant, though, Kelli Starrett, CEO of the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors, said a larger conversation needs to be had: how can the residents of New Orleans continue to live here?

“We have not done a good job of making sure that people in the city who live here, who work here, are paid proper wages to be able to afford the cost of living in New Orleans,” Starrett said. “We have always really struggled with that.”

The “Healthy Homes” ordinance will be taken up before the full city council on October 20.

Click here to read the full report card.

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