Affordable Housing Plight

In this June 26, 2017 photo, Carolyn Horton reacts to the task of packing her belongings in her apartment, which she has to move out of, as her affordable housing subsidies expire at the American Can Apartments in New Orleans. Says Horton, "My rent was $810, but they want to raise it to $1,100 or $1,200. Now I have to income-qualify for a new place and with just under $700 in Social Security, that's not easy." (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) ORG XMIT: LAGH206

A local housing advocacy group is urging Gov. John Bel Edwards to veto a recently passed bill that would ban so-called “inclusionary zoning” policies, which require housing developers to set aside units for low-income residents.

The Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance argues that inclusionary policies could help Orleans Parish and other municipalities boost their supply of affordable housing. 

Senate Bill 462, sponsored by Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, passed the Senate on Monday. The bill, which strips state law of language allowing cities to require such set-asides, now heads to Edwards’ desk.

“Without the powerful tool of mandatory inclusionary zoning, our City Council and others around the state will be rendered helpless in creating equitable, sustainable and affordable homes for all,” the housing alliance said in a statement.

Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The bill, which passed the Senate 26-11, represents a victory for home builders, who argue that they should instead be given incentives to add affordable units to their developments.

They say that forcing developers to keep rents and mortgages low on some units adds significant costs to housing projects. And those costs are in turn likely to be passed on to market-rate renters and buyers, which they say could actually worsen the affordable housing crunch.

The legislative debate kicked off two years ago after Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, introduced a similar bill in response to a policy proposal then under consideration in New Orleans. That bill passed the Senate but was killed in a House committee.

Martiny's bill passed both houses this year, despite opposition from New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome. 

The proposal for such an "inclusionary" policy in New Orleans has been stalled by the City Council for nearly two years amid questions about its finer points and strong opposition from the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans.

But absent a veto from Edwards, the proposal will become moot. 

“For these reasons … GNOHA urges Gov. John Bel Edwards to intervene, veto Senate Bill 462 and remedy this situation before it's too late," the local housing group said. 

Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA​.