New Orleans Planning Study Recommends Atlanta Housing Ordinance be Adopted
(APN) ATLANTA — On August 16, 2016, the City Planning Commission staff of the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, recommended that New Orleans adopt, and expand upon, a Model Ordinance for Affordable Housing Impact Statements (AHIS) that was adopted by the City of Atlanta in November 2015.
The Planning Commission will consider the study and recommendations at its meeting on Tuesday, August 23. If it approves the recommendations, they will then be forwarded on to the City Council for further action.
The Affordable Housing Impact Statements (AHIS), as currently in place in Atlanta, requires that the City of Atlanta’s Office of Housing prepare an Impact Statement every time the City consider a policy decision that would have an estimated impact on the Affordable Housing stock of the City of Atlanta.
The New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC) staff report has recommended that New Orleans require AHIS not only for public policy decisions, but also administrative decisions such as building permits [and many of their public dollar funding decisions, which are administrative].
The report was authored by Kelly Butler; Nicholas Kindel; and Paul Cramer, and had been mandated by the New Orleans City Council after Councilman Jared Brossett introduced AHIS legislation.
“This great news to hear that Atlanta is playing a role in pushing forward the conversation and policy work that will improve and increase affordable housing across the nation,” Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens (Post 3-at-large), Chair of the Community Development/Human Resources Committee, told Atlanta Progressive News.
The draft Atlanta AHIS ordinance was authored by the News Editor of Atlanta Progressive News–the present writer–and was introduced by Councilman Dickens.
“It’s clear that there are affordable housing challenges in many places across the nation and Affordable Housing Impact Statements will allow us to not only recognize that, but the Atlanta Model… added the quantitative metrics, so you can over time be able to measure and track your progress,” Dickens said.
Atlanta’s AHIS policy just went into effect on July 01, 2016, and the City has just produced its first Impact Statement.
“We just had one that will come before Committee this week,” Dickens said.
The present writer, and Dr. Dwanda Farmer, one of the nation’s few PhDs in Community Economic Development, flew out to New Orleans to meet with City staff on June 15, 2016, to discuss the background behind, and potential benefits of, Affordable Housing Impact Statements.
“This Policy is particularly important to New Orleans, as a means of measuring the successful development of affordable housing, in hopes of repopulating the City of New Orleans,” Dr. Farmer said in a statement.
“Being able to measure affordability gaps and market demand is critical to attracting additional redevelopment resources and dollars to continue to bring displaced New Orleanians back home,” Farmer said.
Dr. Farmer and the present writer have helped to co-found a new non-profit, tax exempt organization, SMART ALEC (State and Municipal Action for Results Today / Agenda for Legislative Empowerment and Collaboration), to work on helping to get AHIS adopted in ten U.S. cities and counties by 2018.
A Go Fund Me is currently raising 100,000 dollars towards that purpose.
AHIS is currently pending in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Albany, New York; and Los Angeles, California, as well.
Those who know the backstory will recall that senior advocate Ben Howard–a frequent fixture at Atlanta City Council–had called for Atlanta to adopt AHIS, after he noticed an increasing problem of diversion of federal funding through the City of Atlanta to projects with so-called affordable units that were not truly affordable.
The New Orleans Mayor’s Office and Planning staff learned about Mr. Howard, and how the present writer helped make this idea into a reality. The Atlanta Model is based on an existing practice in San Antonio, Texas, and adds a quantitative scorecard – a key feature that measures estimated numbers of affordable housing units added or subtracted at key income brackets.
“70% of New Orleans residents pay more than 30% toward housing costs. Data collection can be used in tracking real-time housing supply information,” the study found.
“AHIS can serve as an accountability tool for programs and policies implemented to address affordable housing,” the study found.
“AHIS can be included as part of a building permit application and does not require additional fees. The information requested is typically available at the time of submission. Data collection can assist non-profits and private developers with making decisions based on accurate data,” the study found.
“The implementation of an Affordable Housing Impact Statement (AHIS) would be of tremendous benefit to the City of New Orleans, especially as we strive to meet the HousingNOLA goal of 5,000 new affordable housing opportunities by 2021,” Andreanecia Morris, Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance, wrote in a letter to the Commission dated August 01.
“The HousingNOLA 10-Year Strategy and Implementation Plan relies on a vast amount of data; however, that data is limited in its scope and is not updated and released in real time,” Morris wrote.
“The consolidation of comprehensive, live housing data will be an extremely useful tool for measuring the current state of affordability throughout the city, and will aid HousingNOLA’s annual Report Card processes,” Morris wrote.
The Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans (HBAGNO) opposed the AHIS proposal, arguing in written comments that they worry that if policymakers and advocates have data about the impacts of policy proposals on affordable housing, they may oppose developers on the basis of those impacts.
Thus, the Home Builders Association wants to prevent people from being empowered with information because they may act on it.
“We have to conclude that the only real purpose of an AHIS is to use them as a litmus test for whether a development will be approved to begin with, and as a baseline from which to negotiate additional extractions from builders and developers,” Jon Luther, Executive Vice President on HBAGNOA, wrote in a letter dated August 12.
Extraction is an interesting word, seeing as how they’re the ones who extract more rent out of the families of New Orleans than they can afford.