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City Planning Commission suggests mandated zones to tackle affordable housing

The City Planning Commission studies the effect of Smart Housing Mix regulations over a five month period

As rent and housing cost steadily skyrocket in New Orleans, affordable housing is becoming more of a concern.

This past October, New Orleans City Council commissioned the New Orleans City Planning Commission to evaluate the effectiveness of incentivizing developers to build more affordable housing units.

The study evaluated the effectiveness of a Smart Housing Mix ordinance, legislation being considered by City Council to mandate affordable housing units in new developments.

In its most recent study, the City Planning Commission recommended that City Council should create regulations that create inclusionary housing zones, and voluntary zones throughout the city. The Commission also proposed that the regulation should apply to both rental and for-sale multi-family developments, including mix-use developments.

The Commission also considered a size threshold, which would exempt small developments with one to four units; Subject medium developments, between five and nine units to an “in-lieu fee payment;” and mandate participation of developments with 10 or more units in designated zones.

Additional recommendations include the following;

  • The rental units shall be affordable to families earning 60% of AMI or below and the for-sale units shall be affordable to families earning 80% of AMI or below.
  • The affordability term should be between 50 and 99 years.
  • Standards require affordable units that are comparable to market rate and not clustered.
  • The Smart Housing Mix policy provides residential density, parking reductions, and tax abatement incentives to help defray the cost of providing affordable units.
  • Further study is needed to finalize the following aspects of the Smart Housing Mix policy: boundary of the mandatory inclusionary housing zone, in-lieu fee formula, administrative policies, amount of the density and off-street parking incentives, and if additional incentives are required to utilize the density incentives.

The City Planning commission presented its findings to City Council today, Tuesday, February 21, at City Hall, according to Nola.com. City Council will decide on further steps after considering the research.

Two similar and recent developments that are currently utilizing affordable housing incentives are Sidney Torres’ Mid-City apartment complex and the Sacred heart at St. Bernard Avenue multi-use complex.

This past December Edward Communities over the Mid-City complex secured a $6 million in tax breaks for reserving 14 out of 382 planned units for low-income residents. The Sacred Heart developer received additional funding for reserving 44 out of 53 units for low-income residents.

In an August of 2015 report, HousingNOLA stated that the demand for housing is expected to increase by 33,000 units over the next ten years. The most likely buyers will be families earning between $29,717 and $44,575. Additionally, families with incomes over $44,575 will be looking for more two and three bedroom units.