New Orleans Advances Smart Housing Mix

HousingNOLA and its partners have been working for the past three years to create a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy in New Orleans called “Smart Housing Mix.” When Louisianan opponents introduced state legislation to preempt these efforts in 2017 and 2018, Governor John Bel Edwards (D) vetoed the opposing legislation with a catch: He would not do so again if New Orleans did not implement a Smart Housing Mix policy before the 2019 legislative session began on April 8. After much debate and strong advocacy by HousingNOLA and others, the New Orleans City Council unanimously adopted the Smart Housing Mix ordinance on March 28.

The Smart Housing Mix policy came out of HousingNOLA’s “10-Year Strategy and Implementation Plan” released in 2015 to end New Orleans’s affordable housing crisis. A group of committed partners and stakeholders came together to form the Smart Housing Mix Tiger Team to begin moving the policy forward. In 2016, the group partnered with Grounded Solutions Network to study the feasibility of a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy in New Orleans, and the city council passed a motion later that year directing the City Planning Commission to draft an ordinance by December 2016.

This process was put on hold in 2017 and 2018 when state legislation was introduced to ban mandatory inclusionary zoning policies in Louisiana. The Tiger Team looked to HousingNOLA’s #PutHousingFirst campaign and the HousingLOUISIANA network to organize and advocate across the state. Their efforts led Governor Edwards to veto the legislation to ban inclusionary zoning until 2019, and the advocates redoubled their efforts to get the Smart Housing Mix implemented in New Orleans.

The City Planning Commission released its report in November 2018 but had removed the mandatory elements of the policy, jeopardizing the advocates’ ability to get a policy on the books before the governor’s deadline. The Tiger Team rallied supporters and raised awareness through media campaigns, meetings with city council members, calls to action, and a #PutHousingFirst march. Finally, the Smart Housing Mix ordinance was adopted at the end of March, just 11 days before the 2019 legislative session began.

In addition to expanding affordable housing in New Orleans where half of renters are cost-burdened, the Smart Housing Mix will help ensure residents have access to fresh food retailers, public transit, and jobs. Developers are provided incentives like density bonuses and height waivers. HousingNOLA plans to support partners across the state in implementing their own mandatory inclusionary zoning policies.

“If New Orleans renters were able to pay an amount they could afford on housing, they would have an extra $7,200 per household to spend on necessities like food, transportation, medical care or savings,” said Andreanecia Morris, HousingNOLA executive director. “Not only would this have a tremendous impact on economic development, but it would also help diminish the racial and gender inequities that have plagued New Orleans and the entire state of Louisiana for decades.”

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The #PutHousingFirst campaign was nominated for a 2019 NLIHC Housing Organizing Award. Read more about this campaign at: