Sunday, January 10, 2016

Something and nothing

This morning's Advocate presents us with a curious and rare occurrence. Turns out a neighborhood association actually opposed a development on the grounds that it won't include enough affordable housing.
Developers’ plans to set aside 11 units for affordable housing and to bring a long-blighted property back into use were enough to persuade the New Orleans City Council to override the City Planning Commission and approve an extra 100 apartments at a complex proposed for the former Sara Mayo Hospital site on Jackson Avenue.

The council’s approval on Thursday came over the objections of members of the Irish Channel Neighborhood Association, who argued that adding fewer than a dozen small apartments for low-income residents didn’t justify more than doubling the number of units that city planners said are allowed by the city’s zoning ordinance.

But Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, whose district includes the site, said the project would be a step in the right direction for affordable housing.

“Something is better than nothing,” she said.
If I had a nickel for every neo-liberal piece of trickle-down quackery that gets rationalized by "Something is better than nothing," I wouldn't have needed to buy a Powerball this week. As we've said before a few times here, so-called inclusionary zoning is bunk tokenism meant to make gentrification seem politically palatable.  It doesn't actually address the problem so much as exploits it. The net effect is still more nice things for rich people where there was once affordable housing.  Meanwhile, people like LaToya still get to make a prima facie claim that they're taking "a step in the right direction."

But LaToya Cantrell is far less interested in the substance of a policy than whether or not she can personally claim credit for it. We saw this last month during the height of the monuments controversy when LaToya tried to submarine the proposed removal on the grounds that it had been "thrust upon the City Council from the top down," which I guess is different somehow from how Kalias's proposal to develop luxury apartments on Jackson Avenue arrived there.  During her bizarre rambling talk before the monuments vote, Cantrell complaints about "process" basically boiled down to her annoyance that, politically, the issue wasn't all about her.
"I have to be honest with you, when this process stated, when it began with a man ... when it began with a man of privilege coming out saying, apologizing for slavery and seconds later making it public that he was going to come to this body for the removal of four monuments selected by him, I felt disrespected by that," she said.
Similarly, in the case of this proposed development, we see LaToya responding to objections based on policy with accusations based on race. 
But Howard Nobles, with the Irish Channel Neighborhood Association, said the developer would reap profits out of proportion to the benefits provided by the affordable units. The association has been opposed to the project because of its scale.

“We are not against affordable housing, but we think 11 units added to this so they can go 100 units above what they’ve already been approved for is ridiculous,” Nobles said.

Cantrell fired back, saying the neighborhood association lacks the racial and economic diversity to truly reflect the needs of the area.
This isn't to say that LaToya's assessment of the Irish Channel Neighborhood Assocaition's #standing is incorrect.  In fact, I'd say that statement applies well to every neighborhood association in the city as they are by and large comprised of relatively privileged property owners. But since LaToya Cantrell's start in local politics derived from her involvement in the Broadmoor Improvement Association, I hardly think she has much room to talk.

So no one here is perfect.. or really any good at all.  But at least one side pointed out that building 11 "affordable housing" units  for every 200 is probably doing more harm than good.  And that's better than nothing.

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