Gentrification is Changing New Orleans before our eyes.

Between 96,000 and 100,000 black residents left New Orleans for higher ground as Hurricane Katrina made its way to the city in 2005. Before Katrina, New Orleans’ population was 67 percent black. In 2021, the black population rebounded to 59.5 percent. Still and yet, 11 percent never returned.

“Before Katrina, nearly 326,000 black people called New Orleans home, or 67 percent of the population. Today, the figure is just 233,000—a nearly 29 percent drop, far outpacing New Orleans’s overall drop in population, leaving the black share at just below 60 percent. The white population, by contrast, has remained steady, at nearly 133,000, almost even with the pre-Katrina level of 136,000,” Nicole Gelinas wrote in City Journal, a Manhattan Institute publication.

Black migration from New Orleanians is nothing new. Blacks have consistently left the city for better work conditions, higher pay, upward mobility, and to escape racism and discrimination by the powers that be. Ask any black person. They’ll tell you the story of relatives who left the “Big Easy” for greener pastures.

However, Hurricane Katrina was the watershed event that made many who fled reconsider life in New Orleans versus elsewhere.

The 100-year storm literally changed the social fabric of New Orleans. Many who came to help seized the opportunity to buy property and made New Orleans their home. Low property prices and New Orleans’ culture facilitated a wave of gentrification.

City leaders leveled public housing units and replaced them with mixed-use condos, houses, and apartments. Many Black New Orleanians who work in the low-wage tourism industry couldn’t afford to buy such homes. Skilled professionals and builders flocked to the city. They bought property, started small businesses, and injected a brand of culture. But it is foreign to a city known for its southern hospitality.

They brought gentrification with them. Suddenly there were bike paths everywhere. Those made it impossible to park on already narrow residential one-way streets with no off-the-street parking. Gourmet ice cream, horticultural shops, grocery co-ops, indoor food market stalls, flea markets on the Bayou, and newly constructed houses incongruent with the architectural culture of New Orleans are interspersed in black communities.

“Nor has New Orleans experienced an equal opportunity recovery—in no small part because of the white civic leaders who openly advocated for a whiter, wealthier city. While water still covered most of New Orleans, Jimmy Reiss, a prominent local businessman and then-head of the Business Council, told the Wall Street Journal that the city would come back in “a completely different way: demographically, geographically, and politically,” or he and other white civic leaders would not return.

That sentiment was paired with a policy approach then-Congressman Barney Frank described as “ethnic cleansing through inaction,” Gary Rivlin wrote in “White New Orleans Has Recovered from Hurricane Katrina. Black New Orleans Has Not.”

Rivlin penned the piece on the 11th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. “The income disparity between rich and poor is so great that last year Bloomberg declared New Orleans the country’s most “unequal” city. And it’s hardly just the poor who are suffering. The median black household in New Orleans in 2013 was $30,000—$5,000 less than it was in 2000, adjusted for inflation. By contrast, median household income in the white community increased by 40 percent over that same period. And it now stands at more than $60,000,” Rivlin explained.

New Orleans based Fair Housing Action Center published “Gentrification a Growing Threat for Many New Orleans Residents.” It offers highlights from the report released by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC). Click here to see the full report.

According to the report, 13 New Orleans census tracts are actively gentrifying. They are experiencing increases in income, home values, and college attainment. Yet, this is despite having had home values and incomes in the lower 40th percentile.

“Gentrifying areas include parts of the Mid-City, Broadmoor, Central City, Treme, 7th Ward, Holy Cross, McDonogh, and Irish Channel neighborhoods. Fifty-one census tracts are also in the 40th percentile for income and home value and are considered likely candidates for gentrification. By these measures, New Orleans is now the 5th-most intensely gentrifying US city and the threat of displacement is only increasing. New Orleans is gentrifying at an abnormally rapid rate compared to most US cities.”

Population growth and diversity, and residents with resources are desirable everywhere. But at what cost? Gentrification causes native New Orleanians’ displacement and increases mortgages, property taxes, and rent. Literally, it changes the complexion and culture of New Orleans.

Most unfortunate is that New Orleans has a black mayor, predominately black city council and school board, and black elected officials in prominent positions. So far, none is progressive enough to enact plans to eradicate poverty, provide contracting and job opportunities, and ensure youth get educations of value. No one insists that corporations make hiring native New Orleanians a priority.

The question to be asked is, why are New Orleans’ black leaders not working for those who elected them? If we follow the money, what will we discover? Whose campaign contributions helped them win?

There is a redistricting proposal to expand one city council district into the gentrified portion of another community. That plan will dilute the power of black voters and make it nearly impossible for them to elect a candidate of their choice.

What New Orleans’ black majority needs are progressive leaders. Elected officials with the courage to demand equity and fairness and a seat at the table for black citizens from all walks of life. Atlanta’s leaders did it. We can do it in New Orleans too!

9 thoughts on “Gentrification is Changing New Orleans before our eyes.”
  1. Change is New Orleans’ history. New Orleans used to be majority white. Now it’s majority black. Now it’s moving toward a majority white future. Our culture is a mixture of all the peoples that settled here or lived here during our history. It came from various Whites, blacks and early Native Americans. Now there are others adding to that mix, more whites from elsewhere, Hondurans, Mexicans, Vietnamese etc. adding to our culture and way of life. New Orleans is constantly changing. At one time, shotgun houses were foreign to New Orleans. Poboys and jazz would have been foreign to the founding population. We wouldn’t have the muffaletta had the Italians not showed up. The French Quarter wouldn’t be the same without the Spanish architectural additions to the French architecture. So many peoples came to New Orleans and contributed to its culture and history and made it what it is. What’s happening now is what’s always been happening. Change. Each people settle here and add to the ever evolving New Orleans culture. New Orleans culture is not finished evolving and is never the same over time and was not created or mostly created by a single ethnic group. Look at it, whites gave us Mardi Gras, crawfish boils, parades, the Fleur de lis symbol, most of the architecture, foods, Catholic elements in our culture, etc. blacks gave us jazz, second lines, Mardi Gras Indians, voodoo elements in our culture, food etc. Native Americans left traces too like in food, names of places and certain vocabulary words and these new whites from out of town and other peoples are giving more things adding to this cultural gumbo we call New Orleans. Sure, there are whites from elsewhere moving into black neighborhoods causing blacks to flee those neighborhoods. Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, there were the opposite as blacks from outside of the New Orleans area were moving into a majority white New Orleans at that time and into white neighborhoods and this caused a majority white New Orleans in the 1960’s and 1970’s to become a majority black city by the 1980’s. Those whites were making the same argument you’re making now about being invaded by another race of people. But this is New Orleans’ history. The Indians were here once. The French came and replaced them. They brought a few Africans. Then the Spanish came. They brought a few Africans. The white southerners from the southern US came, they brought some blacks with them from those areas. Whites, mixed race and blacks came from the Caribbean, Germans, Irish and Italians came. Jews showed up. Some Acadians (cajuns) settled here too and lent to the culture. People are still coming and demographics are still changing and the culture is still evolving. That is what New Orleans is. An ever evolving culture, people, cuisine and way of life. That’s New Orleans. Love it or leave it. Proud to call it home.

  2. I used to be proud to call it hime, but, lately, watching the political landscape revert back to the old, shows me one thing: Negroes fear separating from Massa!!;

    1. Segregation wasn’t the answer the first time, I doubt it’s the answer now. New Orleans will only benefit from leaving race out of the conversation and treat each other as neighbors, rather than as enemies solely because one has a different skin color. It’s better for everyone. It’s better for New Orleans. We can discuss city matters without bringing race into it. It’s not necessary. I’m all for doing away with political corruption but race doesn’t need to be part of that conversation, only the corruption does.

  3. I used to be proud to call it home, but, lately, watching the political landscape revert back to the old, shows me one thing: Negroes fear separating from Massa!!;

  4. Call me what you want, but we all know its the factual truth. Thank God for gentrification in NOLA, as may be the only way to get the complete failure of black lead racist criminal do nothing Cantrell and a complete break down of law enforcement with the murderous criminal brain dead thug punk animal ghetto thugs, who the ‘mayor’ hugs and shuns the white victim, all while the ‘still black majority’ tolerates it. Only problem is, may not be a white person left not murdered, car jacked, beaten , robbed, raped, maim…same thugs running red lights at 60mph right in front to cops..half NOPD corrupt payroll fraud…left by the time the animals kill each other or we have an 80% white population..or even hard working Latins replace lazy blacks..scream about jobs when Burger King cant open inside because the 15 year old poor no opportunity black wont take a $1,500 bonus & $12/hour job THANK GOD for gentrification ..just speed it up!

  5. I dislike the way Race seems to be the Primary or Focus of EVERY article related to Gentrification because if you really think about it, It effects NOT JUST BLACK, But EVERY RACE/COLOR including but not limited to light brown , tan, latte’, olive , white, beige, yellow, red and every other shade of color no matter which BOX you put your checkmark next to, ONE RACE OR COLOR is not an accurate representation or description of the people of Louisiana and especially not for the majority of people who New Orleans Unique culture created over the last several hundred years!
    As a “White box” checking female with a long family history in Louisiana, Beginning of course as many others in the New Orleans area, I would like to say that using the term Black in every article about how New Orleans and the surrounding communities has been affected greatly by displacement or lack of resources, Especially affordable housing is an issue that has touched ALL Races or Colors. So Please reconsider using Race as being the primary factor in the MANY MANY articles. I am asking respectfully for acknowledgment that the many unfair Things that the occurred post Hurricane Katrina affected EVERY person not ONLY the Black or African American person.

  6. I predict I will get the expected racial hate because I simple speak the truth. Born, raised & still live in NOLA. 70 years old. I seen the changes. The past is the past. We are discussing gentrification. First off NOLA’s gentrification is atypical. The vast majority of those moving her are moving here because of the culture, traditions, architecture, etc.. They dont want a McDonalds where a Po Boy Shop was. They want to fix up the 110 year old home to its original structure. They embrace the music, food, etc. I would& I am total opposed to gentrification of speculators, turning NOLA into cookie cutter Atlanta, Houston, etc. & short term rentals. I might also be if NOLA ^& specifically the areas such as St Roch, Bywater , Treme etc. were still viable up kepted neighborhoods. They haven’t been for decades & have spiral into the most blighted & crime ridden cess pools in the city. Ironic how blacks criticize whites in 1970s in NOLA who werent thrilled with blacks moving to there neighborhoods & now they arre doing same things. The factual truth difference though, because it happened to my own neighborhood, when they became black majority they quickly spiraled into blight & crime. Just the opposite now, the whites with their
    terrible gentrification are eliminating blight and reducing crime, which improves blacks lifes in the area also. Their home valuse & their families safety. Truth is the ONLy thing that will save NOLA is this NOLA friendly gentrification. had you taken care your neighborhoods & not tolerate thecrime this would not even be an issue.Sogoahead. I am a big boy. Take your shots for simply speaking the factual truth.

  7. You are right…my “sister” is a crooked lawyer.. she and her then husband in the early 80’s bought distressed properties in the inner city…threw fragile people into the street..slapped on some paint and put up ceiling fans …VOILA…DOUBLES TO DORMS..RENTED TO RICH TULANE PARENTS…

    Their nasty privileged liberal kids were partying maggots..
    They were liberals “officially” but did not give an f about the neighbors..

    That IS quite different from the “gentrifying” white “kids” now.

    Jus sayin’ Bruh….

    BTW….my crooked lawyer “sister” got dumped by her equally odious slum landlord “husband”…she got Hep C from trying to make him jealous by snuffling…

    He was happy with a ho he met writing and reading poetry at open mic nite…
    They ALLLLLL were NOW slum landlords…
    MAD at the world they took it out on ME..who called them out ( she stole my inheritance ..lol)

    They ALLLLLL moved to the Northshore( all white)…and cheated poor, middle class and wealthy whatever way they could…
    Slum landlord “husband” got ALS just died after 1 year in hell…he is now spending an eternity in hell..

    Hopefully SHE will be next…BUT…
    the NEW white “kids” want experience over money…BUT MONEY FOLLOWS THESE LIBERAL WHITE KIDS…


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