The part of Louisiana where residents are feeling the most “rent stress” from rising rates for housing isn’t in New Orleans or Baton Rouge — it’s in rural East Carroll Parish in the northeast corner of the state.
That’s what LSU professors Jim Richardson and Roy Heidelberg told the Louisiana Housing Corp. on Wednesday when they went before the LHC board to discuss their ongoing assessment of the state’s housing market. Households are considered “rent stressed” if they are spending 35 percent or more of their monthly income on rent.
Almost 80 percent of the households in East Carroll with annual incomes of between $10,000 to $20,000 are rent stressed. In contrast, 39 percent of the households in Louisiana with incomes between $10,000 and $20,000 are rent stressed.
“If you would list the 10 worst areas for rent stress, probably seven of them would be in the (Mississippi River) Delta,” said Heidelberg, an assistant professor in the Public Administration Institute at LSU.
Richardson, a professor in the Public Administration Institute, said the widespread poverty in the Delta and parts of central Louisiana is different from what is happening in poor areas of cities such as New Orleans and Baton Rouge. In cities, there are private developers working on building affordable housing, thanks to assistance from Louisiana Housing Corp. programs.
“I don’t know if anyone from East Carroll has even applied” for funding for affordable housing development, said John Kennedy, state treasurer and a member of the LHC board. The LHC administers state and federal funds to develop affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households.
The discussion highlighted a philosophical split within the LHC: Should the organization focus on building affordable housing in areas that are growing rapidly like New Orleans, Baton Rouge or Lake Charles, where there are needs to develop places for support workers to live? Or should it address poor areas of the state where the populations are shrinking?
“We don’t know what your objective clearly is,” Heidelberg said. “If you want to design policy to address this, it matters how you measure.” He noted that some of the issues with housing affordability deal with construction costs outstripping the rise in local wages.
The LHC has talked about contracting with Richardson and Heidelberg to provide regular updates on the state’s housing market after they did a housing needs assessment report that was released in August. A temporary three-month contract, valued at $4,000 to $5,000, was approved at Wednesday’s meeting. The LHC plans to discuss an extended contract at its Dec. 10 meeting.