NEW ORLEANS — The City of New Orleans, Louisiana, is currently holding a series of Public Hearings to study whether to adopt Affordable Housing Impact Statements (AHIS) as a tool to, among other things, gauge its progress, or lack thereof, in meeting its goal of providing five thousand new affordable housing opportunities by 2021.
SMART ALEC CEO Matthew Charles Cardinale and Board Secretary Dr. Dwanda Farmer traveled to New Orleans to meet with the City Planning Commission and Mayor’s Office to discuss the AHIS study on June 15, 2016.
Cardinale and Farmer recently co-founded SMART ALEC (State and Municipal Action for Results Today / Agenda for Legislative Empowerment and Collaboration) to promote AHIS and other Model Bills.
“It just meant so much to me to be back in New Orleans, after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The skyrocketing cost of housing was one of the reasons I had to move away from the City I adore so much,” Cardinale, who has an MPA from University of New Orleans (2007) and a BA from Tulane University (2003), said.
“Now, we have this opportunity to use the Affordable Housing Impact Statements as a tool to track our progress in fixing our housing shortage and making it possible for low-income people to stay in New Orleans,” he said.
“This Policy is particularly important to New Orleans, as a means of measuring the successful development of affordable housing, in hopes of repopulating the City of New Orleans,” Dr. Farmer, one of the nation’s ten PhDs and leading expert in Community Economic Development in the U.S. (Southern New Hampshire University, 2012), says.
“Being able to measure affordability gaps and market demand is critical to attracting additional redevelopment resources and dollars to continue to bring displaced New Orleanians back home,” Farmer said.
New Orleans is one of at least four U.S. cities that are considering pending legislation for AHIS, after the City of Atlanta, Georgia, adopted the Model Ordinance for AHIS in November 2015. The Atlanta Model AHIS Ordinance went into effect on July 01, 2016.
THE MODEL ORDINANCE
The Atlanta AHIS requires that any time the City Council considers legislation that would have an estimated impact on the affordable housing stock of the City of Atlanta, that the City’s Office of Housing prepare an impact statement that specifies how many units would be added or subtracted at each income bracket.
The New Orleans model would expand this policy to also require impact statements for building permits that come in administratively, where developers would have to provide information about estimated impacts in their applications.
THE NEW ORLEANS AHIS STUDY AND PUBLIC HEARINGS
The New Orleans City Planning Commission “will study and consider the use of affordable housing impact statements and recommend potential changes to the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance and other applicable codes, if necessary.”
The preliminary report is available on the City’s website:
SMART ALEC submitted written comments on July 02, 2016.
FIRST PUBLIC HEARING HELD ON 12th OF JULY
The first public hearing was held on July 12, 2016, and equal time of thirty minutes to each side, was given to those in favor of, and those opposed to, the ordinance.
Andreanecia Morris of Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance spoke on behalf of several affordable housing advocates.
“It’s not the be all and end all, but it’s an incredibly useful tool that we need to clarify the state of the affordable housing situation in New Orleans,” Andreanecia Morris testified, according to The Advocate newspaper.
On the opposing side, Kirk Williamson of the Homebuilders Association of Greater New Orleans raised concerns about what he described as an added layer of bureaucracy, the cost of which he said would be passed on to developers and ultimately to renters.
However, it is not clear that it would require any new staffing for the City of New Orleans to implement a process to understand the estimated impacts of its public policy decisions on its affordable housing stock. If any new staffing is required, the expense of this would not be covered by a tax or fee on developers.
Williamson suggested that developers themselves should provide the information, to reduce the burden on the Planning Commission. The CPC is, in fact, considering just that in certain cases – requiring developers to provide additional information about affordability impacts, when they submit building permits that only require administrative approval.
“If they create a burden for developers, it will be for the greater good,” Planning Commission Chairman Nolan Marshall III said at the hearing, according to the Times-Picayune.
“Affordable housing is of great need in New Orleans and now is the time to act… More than seventy percent of all households in New Orleans pay at least one third of their income towards housing costs. Our residents are living paycheck to paycheck just to pay rent,” Councilmember Jared Brossett said in a statement.
“By requiring the City Planning Commission to study affordable housing and the use of affordable housing impact statements, I hope to bring equity to the housing stock in New Orleans. I look forward to hearing from the community about the importance of this study, and I will continue to collaborate with the stakeholders to promote equitable housing solutions and improve housing options for all,” Brossett said.
The timeline for the Study is as follows:
July 12, 2016: Initial City Planning Commission Public Hearing
August 15, 2016: Deadline for written comments
August 16, 2016: Staff Report for the Affordable Housing Impact Statement Study will be made available to the public
August 23, 2016: City Planning Commission consideration of the study
September 2, 2016: Study completion deadline and recommendation forwarded to the City Council