New Orleans Promotes Housing Equity Through New Zoning Legislation

At Prosperity Now, we stress that policymakers across the country must recognize the legacy of discrimination in housing and draft legislation accordingly. Although it has long been the law to guarantee safe and affordable housing free from discrimination as illustrated in the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the portion of the act (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, introduced in 2015) that requires communities to use HUD funding to eradicate racial segregation continues to lag. However, recent legislation in New Orleans stands out as an example of how cities can promote equitable access to housing through inclusionary zoning.

In New Orleans, 41% of homeowners and 60% of renters pay a third of their monthly income on housing costs. Residents of color bear the biggest burden of unaffordable housing, in part due to a history of housing discrimination.

In response, on March 29,  the New Orleans City Council approved its Smart Housing Mix policies, that promote inclusionary zoning and address the need for affordable housing. They include new zoning rules to reduce growing economic inequality in New Orleans and expanded options for affordable housing in underserved neighborhoods through incentives and regulations for developers. The new ordinance establishes a mandatory inclusionary zoning overlay district, mandatory inclusionary base zoning districts and a requirement that private developers create affordable housing when they build new projects.

The City Planning Commission will also be required to consider amending the city’s Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance to include suggestions from the HR&A New Orleans Housing Study about density bonuses, parking reductions and payments in place of compliance.

The passing of these policies was due in part to the advocacy efforts of organizations like the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance (GNOHA) an alliance of housing developers, homebuyer education agencies, nonprofits, businesses and governmental agencies that work to address the affordable housing crisis in the area. In 2015, GNOHA outlined HousingNOLA, a 10-year plan with the goal of preserving the existing supply of affordable rental and homeownership options, preventing widespread displacement, promoting fair housing policies and more.

According to GNOHA, New Orleans would need 33,600 more affordable housing opportunities to meet the growing need. Through the Smart Housing Mix policies, the city will be more equipped to meet this demand.

Interested in news, research and resources on Affordable Housing? Join the Affordable Homeownership Network! Ready to take action on policies that promote fair housing? Join the Affordable Homeownership Campaign!

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