FOX 8 Defenders: Lawmakers debate bill targeting slumlord non-profits

Published: May. 11, 2023 at 11:20 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A debate on the House floor Thursday prompts questions from state lawmakers about a proposal to force slumlord non-profit property owners to pay taxes. The bill was drafted after our FOX 8 Defenders reports highlighted dangerous living conditions at apartments owned by a religious non-profit.

At the capitol Thursday, State Representative Jason Hughes of New Orleans presented House Bill 46 for debate on the House floor. It proposes to change the state constitution to force slumlord non-profit property owners to pay taxes.

“We have a couple of bad actors around the state that have been highlighted by FOX and others where residents are actually living in conditions of mold, where there are clear holes in the ceiling, water is coming in and these out of state landlords aren’t doing anything about it.”

As Hughes’ mentioned, our FOX 8 Defenders reports exposed what residents call dangerous living conditions at The Willows in New Orleans East, Parc Fontaine in Algiers and The Bellemont in Metairie. All three are owned by Global Ministries Foundation or GMF Preservation of Affordability Corporation, a religious non-profit based out of Tennessee. Because of its non-profit status GMF doesn’t pay a dime in property taxes.


New La. bill would remove tax exemption status for non-profit ‘slumlords’

Child begs for help at Bellemont apartments

Former JP Fire Chief calls Bellemont apartments a ticking time bomb

Nonprofit that owns Willows received millions in state financing

Willows management attempts to end lease of family who spoke to FOX 8

The bill aims to give the power to a local municipality, like the City Council in New Orleans to decide if the tax exempt status of a non-profit should be pulled, if their property is considered a health or safety risk. This debate was the latest step for this bill, that’s already passed out of two committees. But questions about the nature of the proposal abounded.

“I do have a concern that politics could come into this and,” said State Rep. Gabe Firment of Pollock.

“I have worked tirelessly with every colleague that has come to me with this bill to add safeguards to make sure that local governing authorities are not playing political football,” Hughes responded.

State Rep. Beryl Amedee of Houma also had questions. “My hesitancy here is that it actually targets non-profits so when you remove the tax exempt status of the non-profit, then who gets the new revenue?”, Amedee questioned.

Hughes says the local municipality would get the tax revenue but says strict measures are in place to ensure a property would only be affected if it’s cited by code enforcement for violations and the owners fail to do anything to clean it up.

At the end of the debate, Hughes offered this suggestion, “If any member of this body has concerns, I respect those, I would just ask that you work with me today to try to work through those concerns because this is really about the health and safety of the citizens of Louisiana.”

And with that, Hughes asked to return the bill to the calendar, to be taken up again in the future.

When the proposal is taken up again in the House, if it garners the approval of lawmakers, it moves to the Senate for consideration. Because it’s a constitutional amendment, voters must decide if the measure becomes law this fall.

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