The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center and the Urban Institute jointly published a report on November 12 assessing the current and future housing demand and supply for low income people in New Orleans. The report, titled Housing Production Needs: Three Scenarios for New Orleans, finds that, despite rising vacancy rates among market-rate rental units, much of the city’s housing remains unaffordable to people with low incomes. The authors suggest a series of policy actions to help counter that glut and to help people with low incomes access housing.
The report begins by evaluating the need for affordable housing. The authors look at the percentage of people who are housing cost burdened (paying more than 30% of their income toward housing) in New Orleans, and conclude that there is a lack of affordable housing for an estimated 20,019 current rental households earning less than 80% of area median income.
The data show that housing costs spiked considerably following Hurricane Katrina, which drastically impacted people with low incomes. For example, from 2004 to 2008, rents rose in Orleans Parish 41% when controlling for inflation. Homeowners in New Orleans earning less than $20,000 per year were more likely to be cost-burdened than homeowners nationally (81% in New Orleans compared with 72% nationally).
The study also finds that 9,994 homeless individuals and families currently live in New Orleans. Since Hurricane Katrina, the homeless population has doubled, and the current housing production in the pipeline will not provide enough housing for this group.
The study evaluates future demand for housing by looking at forecasting demographics and future job projections. The first two scenarios use Louisiana Workforce Commission 2016 job projections, which do not show a tremendous population expansion or job growth. The third scenario assumes that New Orleans increases its population to pre-Katrina levels. All three look at the demand by focusing on population projections, household size estimates, target vacancy rates, estimated annual rate of stock loss, doubled up households, and homeless individuals and families. The first conservative, no-growth scenario shows that an additional 5,744 affordable housing units will be needed in the metro area by 2020, which does not even include units needed for the homeless population.
Policy recommendations made in the report fall into three categories and aim to increase the supply of affordable housing with approaches for government, nonprofit, private, and philanthropic groups. First, completion of subsidized housing currently in the pipeline must occur. The report encourages inclusion of Gulf Opportunity (GO) Zone tax credits in the new Tax Credit Exchange Program, as well as extension of the placed-in-service deadline for GO Zone projects. Louisiana Recovery Authority should also honor its commitment to the Small Rental Properties program and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) “piggyback” funding.
Additionally, the report outlines policies that will help low income households gain access to existing housing. In order to help households with low incomes gain access to existing housing, the state and federal governments can target CDBG and HOME monies to existing rental stock, which would decrease blight and increase housing quality as well. The study also concludes that the city’s Housing Choice Vouchers program can be strengthened to reduce discrimination and ensure increased voucher utilization. The Housing Authority of New Orelans (HANO) should be reformed by increasing oversight and creating an “ombudsman” position to deal with landlord disputes.
Finally, the report suggests that the city increase investment in information infrastructure to ensure better assessment of community needs and promote accountability.
The report is available at http://www.gnocdc.org/HousingProductionScenarios/