In The News › Group: State “Perpetuates Imbalance”

Aug 24, 2007

Source: Baton Rouge Advocate

Group: State “Perpetuates Imbalance”

Group: State ‘perpetuates imbalance’

By JOE GYAN JR.

Advocate New Orleans bureau

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana’s strategy of doling out
federal housing tax credits and Community Development
Block Grant funds to New Orleans-area parishes in proportion
to the damage their rental properties suffered from Hurricane
Katrina will “do little to alleviate the regionwide imbalance of
low-income housing,’’ a nonprofit research group claims.

“To some extent it perpetuates the region’s pre-existing
imbalance,’’ the independent Bureau of Governmental
Research in New Orleans said in a report that looks at the
distribution of subsidized rental housing and the changes
brought about by post-Katrina housing programs in the state.

Andy Kopplin, executive director of the Louisiana Recovery
Authority, said Thursday the bureau report “misses the boat’’
in fundamental ways.

BGR is equating subsidy with poverty, which is false,’’ he
said. “Don’t look at the subsidy. Look at what is being built
and the quality of what is being built.’’

Kopplin pointed to two recently announced developments in
New Orleans, both partially funded with block grant funds,
that will offer rental housing that is both affordable and high
quality: the 200 Carondelet project, which will turn an
abandoned high-rise in the city’s Central Business District
into a mixed-income residential development; and the Walnut
Square apartments in eastern New Orleans that were
demolished after the storm and will be reborn as a mixed-
income complex.

The Bureau of Governmental Research contends it is time for
the state and region to begin addressing the problems of
concentrated poverty and affordable housing on a regional
basis.

“A regional approach to subsidizing low-income rental
housing could provide greater opportunities and quality of life
to low-income households, connect housing strategy and job
opportunities, and create a more equitable sharing of the costs
of poverty,’’ it said.

Bureau board Chairman Lynes Sloss said Louisiana’s post-
Katrina housing programs have sought to encourage work
force housing development and avoid concentrations of
poverty within the city of New Orleans.
“But the city still has much of the region’s subsidized
housing, and residents have limited access to employment and
other opportunities,’’ she said.

“The state should begin reviewing ways to distribute low-
income housing more broadly and strategically throughout the
region.’’

Kopplin argued that more needs to be done in the most
impacted areas, “not less.’’ He also said the affordable, high-
quality rental housing that the post-storm housing programs
are creating are not “re-creating’’ concentrations of poverty.

The bureau looked at two post-Katrina housing programs:
$1.7 billion in Gulf Opportunity Zone low-income housing
tax credits; and nearly $900 million in block grant funds from
the Louisiana Recovery Authority for the repair of small
rental properties through the state’s “Road Home’’ small
rental repair program.

The report says the lion’s share of the credits and rental repair
funds were allocated to projects in New Orleans, which
suffered nearly two-thirds of the statewide major and severe
damage to rental housing.

The Bureau of Governmental Research said New Orleans had
two-thirds of the region’s subsidized rental households, but
only one-third of the region’s population, before Katrina hit.
It also had more than 80 percent of the region’s households
that resided in public housing. The organization estimates that
New Orleans’ share of subsidized households will “hold
steady’’ post-Katrina despite its dramatic population loss.

In structuring its post-Katrina housing programs, the bureau
said the state recognized the danger of clustering the very low
income households in the city and took steps to encourage
mixed-income development, including the redevelopment of
several of the city’s large public housing sites.

The group claims the state achieved “only limited success’’
with mixed income developments, which account for 18 of
the 72 projects awarded GO Zone housing tax credits.

“The remaining 54 are 100 percent income developments, and
42 of these have a very low income component. Many of the
developments are clustered together or located near other
subsidized housing,’’ the report said. “It remains to be seen
whether these developments will improve neighborhoods and
foster recovery, as the state claims, or contribute to
neighborhood instability.’’

The bureau said experts have found that concentrating the
poor in the core city depresses it, retards regional prosperity,
and limits the access of the inner city poor to employment and
other opportunities.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed 82,000 rental units in
south Louisiana.

Kopplin said there is only enough money available to bring
back 30,000 of those units.

In June, the national PolicyLink research institute also
weighed in on Louisiana’s use of GO Zone rental housing
restoration program credits.

The group said the Louisiana Recovery Authority, Louisiana
Housing Finance Agency and the state Office of Community
Development “successfully met’’ some of the Road Home
rental housing goals “through broad geographic distribution,
through proportionally allocating credits to places of damage,
and through encouraging mixes of incomes.

“While effectively allocating funds to restore two-fifths of
what was damaged or destroyed, clearly more is needed,’’ the
group’s report said.

“The federal government should allocate more resources.’’

PolicyLink also said Louisiana agencies should “use the
resources still at their command to meet the shortfalls to the
most vulnerable populations’’ and “continue strengthening the
practices initiated with GO Zone resources to fairly distribute
affordable housing across regions, to better connect housing
to other vital services, and to ensure that all communities
provide housing choice to their workers, their seniors, and
their vulnerable residents with special needs.’’

Aug 24, 2007

Source: Baton Rouge Advocate

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