As Louisiana moves forward with efforts to consolidate the state’s housing programs, the Louisiana Housing Alliance (LHA), an NLIHC state coalition partner, continues its work to ensure affordable housing advocates and providers are included in the process. After successfully amending the legislation in the state Senate, advocates are turning their attention to the state House to increase protections for nonprofit affordable housing developers.
On March 17, Governor Bobby Jindal (R) proposed streamlining housing assistance programs by creating the Louisiana Housing Corporation (LHC). The LHC would serve as an independent entity overseeing 30 housing-related programs currently administered by the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency, Louisiana Land Trust, Office of Community Development, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Children and Family Services. The corporation would also set new regulations on how developers can access federal and state funding for affordable housing development.
While the bill was debated, LHA worked with State Senator Lydia Jackson of Shreveport to offer amendments strengthening public participation. One amendment mandated that nonprofit affordable housing developers be considered for inclusion on the corporation’s governing board, while another amendment, sponsored by Senator Sharon Weston Broome, required the creation of a housing and transportation commission to advise the LHC on statewide housing policies. However, affordable housing advocates and developers continue to push for a seat on the corporation’s transitional team. Both amendments were included in the Senate legislation that passed on June 6 by a 36 to 1 vote.
As advocates await action by the state House, LHA also met with the author of the governor’s proposal, the Commissioner of Administration, to highlight the need to increase protections for nonprofit developers. Specifically, LHA is advocating for the removal of language that allows the LHC to develop and sponsor a statewide nonprofit development corporation. This corporation would be able to participate in federal housing programs and secure housing equity funds for residential housing developments, creating competition for access to the limited amount of capital available for affordable housing development.
With negotiations taking place, LHA has launched a new media and outreach campaign urging legislators to ensure adequate processes are in place for public participation. Although the session ends on June 23, LHA is hosting its annual listening tour in August. The tour will travel to nine regions across the state to capture stories of the challenges faced by affordable housing advocates, developers, residents and providers. These stories along with the continued push for public participation in the state’s housing plan will frame LHA’s policy priorities and advocacy efforts for the next legislative year.
“The next legislative session will be extremely important because of statewide elections and we want our legislators to know, both at the ballot box and during the session, that consolidating housing programs is a good concept, but we are concerned about limitations on public participation and unfair competition. The state’s investment in affordable housing must reflect the interests of the public, not compete with them,” says Marla Y. Williams, Executive Director of Louisiana Housing Alliance.