New Orleans falling behind on affordable housing goals

New Orleans falling behind on affordable housing goals

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New Orleans is falling further behind when it comes to providing affordable housing for its low-income residents, with fewer than 200 units added since last fall, and is unlikely to achieve the goals set by housing advocates and the city itself, according to a new report.

The city is adding affordable units at such a tepid pace that even optimistic projections would leave it far short by the end of the year of goals set by former Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration, according to a mid-year report from HousingNOLA, an affordable housing organization.

It will likely be the second year in a row that the numbers will be “severely off,” and a renewed commitment to affordable housing is needed, said Andreanecia Morris, the group’s executive director.

“If we don’t seek to stabilize these communities, what are we fighting for? The people of this city are what make it special,” Morris said. “If we lose that because we can’t act, then the city won’t be able to stand up again.”

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In 2016, Landrieu’s administration pledged to have 7,500 more affordable housing units in the city by 2021. That plan drew heavily from a HousingNOLA strategy issued the previous year that had set a goal of 5,000 additional units over the same time frame.

The city’s goal would require new units to be made available at a rate of about 1,500 a year. But in the two years after that plan was announced, only 1,930 affordable units were created — or kept affordable in the face of threatened loss — according to the HousingNOLA report.

Now halfway through the third year, those goals still appear to be on shaky ground.

HousingNOLA’s report, issued on Monday, counted only 190 new affordable housing units added to the city’s supply from October to March.

An optimistic scenario could see a total of 750 units made available by the end of the year, though between 150 and 200 of them would require state funding that is far from guaranteed, Morris said.

And even if all those units do come through, the city would still be more than 1,600 units short of the pace it would need to meet the 2021 goal.

“It’s clear that we can no longer accept anything except success from our elected officials, our policy makers, our advocates and ourselves,” Morris said. “We have to put housing first as a community and solve this problem.”

The HousingNOLA report calls for the city to adopt and implement the Smart Housing Mix strategy, which would require some new developments to include affordable units, potentially with incentives offered to developers. It also calls for public agencies to step up their production of affordable units and to increase the money that goes to a city affordable housing fund.

Morris said the city’s inability to meet its goals falls on everyone — government, nonprofits and advocates alike.

David Lee Simon, a spokesman for Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration, said in a statement that the mayor “will continue to promote accountability and transparency so that homes already under construction get completed and that resources previously awarded for the development and preservation of affordable homes are put to their highest and best use.”

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