Wednesday, November 07, 2018

"Obvious gross misunderstanding"

I don't know if I could count the number of times I've expressed skepticism over the efficacy of "inclusionary zoning" rules as a remedy for the affordable housing crisis.  Typically, when these policies are implemented, the formula doesn't set aside nearly enough units to meet the need. And more often than not, they actually serve as a kind of token for rationalizing.. or even subsidizing.. more luxury housing for rich people. Worst of all they're an easy out for decision makers looking to claim they have done something about housing and an excuse for stopping there.

Having said all of that, we have to recognize the unique corner the City Planning Commission finds itself painted into this week. The legislature and the governor have given them what amounts to a "use it or lose it" ultimatum.
In August, the New Orleans City Council tasked the CPC staff with studying three types of “inclusionary zoning” policies as part of the creation of a so-called “smart housing mix,” revisiting the results of a 2017 study that recommended the city adopt similar rules.

Those recommendations were shelved. This year, Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed a measure that would prevent municipalities from instituting their own inclusionary zoning requirements, only on the condition that New Orleans decide whether it wants them, otherwise he’ll plan to sign similar legislation next year.
Even so, the commissioners are reluctant to act. Last month Mitch Landrieu's good buddy Walter Isaacson wondered out loud if housing problem would just go away on its own thanks to "market forces."  Now it's one thing for us to be suspicious that this one policy choice is itself not much better than laissez faire trickle down approach. It's something else entirely for the Planning Commissison to actually prefer trickle down as the ideal. So circumstances have conspired such that housing advocates are left with no choice but to fight tooth and nail to keep this marginal tool on the table.
Housing NOLA executive director Andreanecia Morris tells Gambit that even with the report’s recognition of the housing problem, and the years-long argument for mandated affordable housing creation, advocates face an uphill battle with a commision with an “obvious, gross misunderstanding of the circumstances as well as the need of a solution that could be brought to bear.”

“Will we exhibit the courage necessary to take up the challenge from the governor to bring this much needed program into reality?” Morris asks. “And will we consistently enforce it?”
Morris is being nice, there. We would characterize Isaacson's position as having been born more out of hostility than "misunderstanding."  Either way, CPC is going to take up the "smart housing mix" report on November 13.  Probably will be off in some broom closet or something at City Hall. The Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance has more information here.

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