Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Beach town

New Orleans isn't a beach town. Not yet, anyway. We're kind of working on that in more than one sense. In one sense, we're not putting up much of a fight against the encroaching Gulf of Mexico so it's likely we'll be ocean-front property soon enough.  In another, we're purposefully patterning our land use policies to match what you might find in a sleepy beachfront resort.
But New Orleans is not a beach community that can just cut down trees and bulldoze houses for more condos to satisfy a seasonal tourism demand. New Orleans has a limited supply of historic housing, and by virtue of that housing being historic, we can’t just build more of it. That limited housing stock and the neighborhood culture it nurtures is the very selling point that brings millions of tourists to town every year. The demand created by those millions of visitors competes directly with residents for housing. While that competition is fiercest in specific neighborhoods, all the studies show it is a city-wide phenomenon. And it is year-round competition. Unlike seasonal tourism elsewhere, New Orleans is a destination all year, and spends millions of dollars marketing itself as such.
Actually, if we really think about what that paragraph means, the situation here is even worse. We're intentionally making this place a permanent resort town, not just a seasonal one. I've been talking about this for a long time now, in fact. The trouble is, up until very recently, this was a real city where people actually lived.  The people who own it don't really want it to work that way anymore.

Update: I forget that I wrote this one, but on the day the mayor was inaugurated into his second term, there was this long winded post where I tried to sketch out where all this was going. Two years later it still looks this way to me.

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