NEW ORLEANS – Tuesday, April 7, 2020 – As the COVID-19 Pandemic shines an even brighter light on the need for affordable housing in New Orleans, the HousingNOLA 2020 Semi-Annual Report shows State and City leaders are wildly failing to keep their commitment to provide affordable housing.
In 2016, leaders committed to creating 7,500 affordable housing opportunities by the end of 2020. As of March 1, 2020, only 1,274 new housing options have been created and 354 affordable housing options have been lost in the last six months. This is the fourth year HousingNOLA has published these stats at the mid-year point, and this is the first time that there has been this level of decline so early in the year. The data shows we were losing ground at an alarming rate when it comes to affordable housing even before the COVID-19 pandemic reached New Orleans.
One particular segment of our population is hit hardest on both fronts. Yesterday we learned that African Americans make up 70% of the coronavirus deaths in Louisiana, which experts attribute to racial divides around economic opportunity and access to healthcare. There is also a striking disparity when it comes to race and affordable housing in New Orleans. African Americans have experienced an increase in housing insecurity, both from declining rates of home ownership and increasing cost burden rates for renters. These economic factors can’t help but have contributed to the disproportionate number of African Americans who have been struck by COVID-19.
Affordable housing advocates are calling on the Governor and Mayor to lead by example and use their executive powers to finally align resources and direct local and state agencies to #PutHousingFirst and guarantee sustainable housing solutions. We must provide real relief, follow through with impactful programs and connect people with the 7,300 empty homes that are available right now.
At a time when New Orleanians are told to “Stay Home,” resident can’t help but ask, “Where’s That?” How can New Orleanians be told to stay home when our leaders at the state and local level aren’t doing their jobs to provide affordable housing?
We are calling on our Mayor and City Council to make the following #PutHousingFirst policies a priority:
- PROVIDE IMMEDIATE RENTAL & UTILITY ASSISTANCE
- PUT HOUSING AUTHORITY VOUCHER FAMILIES INTO VACANT HOMES
3. MORTGAGE PAYMENTS (RESIDENTIAL & COMMERCIAL) MUST BE DEFERRED UNTIL THE END OF THE LOAN
4. DEDICATE A REVENUE SOURCE FOR THE HOUSING TRUST FUND
5. INCLUDE HOUSING FUNDING & RELATED FUNDING (GREEN BUILDING, SUPPORTIVE SERVICES, HOMEBUYER COUSELING, FINANCIAL LITERACY, ETC.) IN ALL FEDERAL EMERGENCY SPENDING PACKAGES
HousingNOLA has long sounded the alarm about our concerns over a lack of affordable housing and now as we are all told to “Stay Home” – our concerns are coming to fruition. It’s the culmination of every single leader and policy maker responsible for housing not doing what is necessary of them. “The system was broken before, and now it’s even worse because our leaders are failing us and spectacularly mismanaging the resources they have,” said Andreanecia Morris, Executive Director of HousingNOLA. “We hope this mid-year data will serve as a warning and a chance for our leaders finally commit to ending housing insecurity because as the Coronavirus spreads, our community will only get hit even harder.”
The HousingNOLA Semi-Annual Report is a grim look at the housing reality we are now facing, and we implore our leaders to #PutHousingFirst with the same level of commitment they expect from us when they say, “Stay Home.”
The data in HousingNOLA, the city’s 10 Year housing strategy and implementation plan, indicated the need for 33,600 additional affordable units in the city by 2025. Preliminary revisions to the HousingNOLA Demand Model begun in early 2020 indicate a dramatic increase in the number of housing insecure households. With onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can expect more people to fall into housing insecurity.
Despite the Louisiana legislative session being in recess, we are calling on State Senators and Representatives to take the steps necessary to solve our affordable housing crisis. Lawmakers need to make it a priority to appropriate emergency housing funding to ensure everyone has a place to live while we navigate the COVID-19 crisis. The State of Louisiana has a housing trust fund that has never been properly capitalized and initially we should seed it with $50 million to be derived from multiple sources:
- Projected surplus of $500 million. We understand that given the current crisis those projections will change, and funds will be used to address this crisis. Housing MUST a part of that solution.
- Existing CDBG-DR funding (as of March 3, 2020) there is $39,346,938 currently unobligated in CDBG-DR funding from Hurricane Katrina for Housing programs.
- Savings from the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) have yet to be exclusively allocated for reentry housing programs
ABOUT HOUSING NOLA:
HousingNOLA is a 10-year partnership between the community, leaders, and dozens of public, private, and nonprofit organizations working to solve New Orleans’ affordable housing crisis by implementing the 10-Year Strategy and Implementation Plan. Rather than just being a written document, HousingNOLA is an ongoing initiative to collectively remind New Orleans and its elected officials of the issues we face and our pledge to maintain a plan of action. Data indicates the need for 33,600 additional affordable units in the city by 2025 and the data clearly shows that wages have not come close to mirroring the dramatic rise in housing costs. It’s our job to hold our leaders accountable to the recommendations we make in HousingNOLA. Learn more at www.HousingNOLA.org