Nobody is happier than we are to see the boom in new construction of expensive apartments and condos both in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, where downtown building is transforming the landscape.
Yet with development comes costs and opportunities that the state's largest cities must manage, and we question the idea that the Legislature should stick its collective nose into issues that local government properly control.
Senate Bill 462 by Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, would forbid municipal and parish governments from requiring developers to set aside a certain number of low-income units in order to receive building permits for apartment, condo, single-family and other housing projects.
This is a process called "inclusionary zoning," which the bill passed 26-11 by the Senate would change. “Inclusionary zoning” would become “voluntary economic incentive policies," meaning that cities would have little or no leverage to require affordable apartments in large developments.
But why should legislators from places like New Iberia and New Roads decide what’s best for New Orleans?
New Orleans voters just elected a slate of city leaders who largely believe in “inclusionary zoning,” chiefly because affordable housing is a vexing problem there.
Developers and home builders argue that requiring additional units generating less revenues creates financial pressures that could keep them pursuing such projects.
But where are people of little means going to live? In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment in New Orleans, renters need to earn $18.54 per hour, but the average wage for the city’s renters is $3 per hour less, according to the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center.
The New Orleans Planning Commission recommended a “Smart Housing Mix” policy that seeks to expand affordable housing in developing neighborhoods like Tremé and Mid-City.
These policies may stifle development, and they may not solve the shortage of affordable housing that is crimping New Orleans.
So the Republicans supporting SB 462 may turn out to be correct.
But that’s between the city’s voters and its local elected officials.
Republicans usually argue that local control works best. This is a case where they should practice what they preach.