Rents are rising, median income has fallen and affordable places to call home in New Orleans are becoming increasingly difficult to find, according to a recently released report about housing conditions in the city.
Now, local officials plan to take that information and craft a plan to address housing needs over the next decade.
Dubbed HousingNOLA, the plan will try to address the impact that changing demographics, an inadequate housing supply and diminished federal funding for affordable housing will have in determining who can live in New Orleans and at what cost.
The plan will be crafted, with input from residents, by an executive committee with members from the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development; the Foundation for Louisiana; and a coalition of neighborhood groups, housing advocates and housing developers working together as the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance.
Analyzing data from a variety of federal, state and local agencies, the preliminary report found that average rents and home values have increased by about 50 percent in New Orleans in the past 15 years, when adjusted for inflation, with some of that pressure coming from an influx of new residents.
According to the report, more than 70 percent of all households spend more than the generally recommended one-third of their income on housing costs. Meanwhile, median income in New Orleans has fallen by 15 percent since 2000 when adjusted for inflation, the report says.
“We have the unfortunate situation of incomes not keeping pace with the rising cost of housing,” said Ellen Lee, the director of housing policy and community development for the city. “The cost of housing has increased dramatically, and the incomes of our families have not been able to keep up with that. That puts even more pressure on us to figure out how to build and make affordable housing for our families.”
Affordable housing is defined in the report as “what individuals and families can afford to pay toward their rent or mortgage and still have enough money left over to afford other life necessities,” including transportation, food and education.
The report projects there will be a demand for 33,593 additional homes in New Orleans in the next 10 years. That figure includes nearly 11,000 rental units for low- and moderate-income households, more than 5,600 low- and moderate-income homes for purchase and nearly 11,300 market-rate homes for purchase.
A series of community meetings, the first of which is Sept. 19, will be held before a final housing plan is released in November. Details of the meeting have not been released.
The HousingNOLA plan will not set policy. It is intended, instead, to define the city’s housing needs, reflect what residents want and to act as a road map for policymakers.
It will recommend, generally, that New Orleans leverage private and public dollars to develop more affordable housing options; create or improve policies that would result in a more equitable and affordable city; and develop a system for benchmarking progress.
The issue of affordability is one the city is taking steps to tackle. Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Wednesday signed into law an ordinance amending the new comprehensive zoning ordinance to allow developers to build denser residential buildings if they dedicate a portion of the units to low-income residents.