UPDATE, 1:54 p.m.

The City Council unanimously backed a zoning change for the development, one that both reduces its potential unit count and that allows for further public comment on its design down the road.

ORIGINAL STORY

Thanks to a down-to-the-wire deal, plans for a $26 million mixed-income development in Bywater could have an easier time clearing the New Orleans City Council on Thursday.

Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer said late Wednesday she has reached a compromise with the Housing Authority of New Orleans and plans to support that agency’s project.

Her colleagues are likely to follow her lead. It’s rare, though not unheard of, for council members to buck a long-time council custom of deferring to district council members on land use matters within those members’ districts.

The compromise would grant a zoning change to the Royal Street project, which HANO said it needed in order to proceed. But the change would allow HANO to build only up to 143 units, not the 184 units Palmer said the agency could have built under the type of zoning it had asked for.

HANO has said it planned for only 136 units in all. 

The deal “will... guarantee affordable housing while making provisions to ensure that housing is designed and equipped to a standard that New Orleanians can thrive in,” Palmer said in a statement. 

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"This is a unique opportunity to provide quality affordable housing, allowing residents to be close to their jobs and neighborhood amenities such as Crescent Park," added Will Moyers of the ITEX Group of Houston, HANO's partner developer.

Palmer’s effort comes after scores of Bywater residents decried HANO’s proposal as out of step with the neighborhood’s character. Housing advocacy groups, meanwhile, called the proposal a boon for the area and dismissed any criticisms as racist.

It also comes as city officials have increasingly brainstormed ways to get more low-income residents into highly sought-after areas, neighborhoods that were heavily gentrified after Hurricane Katrina and in which home prices have skyrocketed in recent years.

HANO’s plan would put 82 affordable units on property it owns bounded by Royal, Mazant, Chartres and France streets in the Bywater. Those units would be rented to residents making less than the area’s median income, which in 2019 is $67,400 for a family of four.

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Another 54 units would rent for the area’s market rate. Fifty of the complex’s units would be one-bedroom apartments, while 68 would be two-bedroom and 18 would be three-bedroom.

Financing for the $26.7 million project comes from a variety of sources, including low-income tax credits and and federal grant funds.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell, also in a statement, applauded the deal, saying it would help “ensure affordability in high opportunity neighborhoods near job centers and transit routes.”

Also blessing the proposal was Andreanecia Morris of housing advocacy group Housing NOLA, who said it would help people who pay more in rent than they can afford. 

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Last week, Palmer proposed a different alternative to HANO’s plan, one that would spread out the affordable apartments over more plots of land, rather than keep them all at one site.

But her suggestion was seen as untenable by housing officials, who said it would likely require zoning changes for each separate lot and result in hulking multiplexes next to moderately-sized homes -- likely sparking even more protests from residents in the area. 

The City Council will consider the Bywater development at 11 a.m. Thursday in its chambers at City Hall. 


Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA​.