Monday, May 14, 2018

Density bonus

So much energy gets spent arguing over whether or not the city is even allowed to do bank-shot trickle down style housing policies like inclusionary zoning or voluntary density bonuses that we miss out on the fact that these are largely just sops to developers who benefit from slapping an "affordability" label onto what are really luxury developments.

In some cases, the developer doesn't even have to participate in the density bonus in order to at least associate it with their branding effort.  All that really matters is that they get to say, we tried.
The building will still be mixed-income, though there are some changes in what that mix will look like. The original plan set aside 15 percent of the apartments for lower-income residents for 50 years, with some units priced at rates targeting residents who earned as low as 30 percent of the area's median income.

In the updated plans, 10 percent of the apartments -- or seven units -- will be priced to target residents who earn 80 percent of the area's median income. That translates to about $900 a month for a one-bedroom unit and $1,100 a month for a two-bedroom unit.

Doucette said the remainder of the apartments will have rents at "workforce levels," geared toward people who work in Bywater or commute to jobs in the nearby downtown area. Rents would fall between $1,400 and $1,600 a month for a one-bedroom unit, and between $1,900 and $2,200 for a two-bedroom unit.
Even the lower end of that "mix" is too damn high. The median income in New Orleans is roughly $36,000.  The seven(!) units in the less expensive range really stretch the notion of what would qualify as affordable there. But it's really that "workforce" terminology that ought to insult people. It suggests to us that, if we aren't able to meet a $1,400 - $2,200 rent, then we aren't the sort of "workforce" that is valued here.  I don't know who commutes downtown for that kind of money.  Maybe they're oil and gas executives.  (Oh wait. No.)  Maybe they're at the University Medical Center. (Oh no.)  In any case, they certainly aren't part of that "backbone of New Orleans" cultural/service economy we like to celebrate.  I suppose you could pull down that kind of rent letting those units out as STRs, but that's not why we build multi-unit housing in tourist-friendly neighborhoods, right.?

Anyway, the good news is the Cantrell Administration should be able to glean some helpful insights into these challenges from the developers themselves.  One of them is LaToya's new deputy CAO.

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