On the Ballot

Despite recent hardships, New Orleans voters decide to scrap tax for housing programs

By Ben Myers

Source: The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate

December 11, 2021

New Orleans voters on Saturday narrowly rejected the renewal of a 0.91-mill property tax housing programs that had been in effect since 1991. The “no” vote prevailed with less than 51%, and the 940-vote difference amounted to 1.7% of the 56,098 people who cast ballots on the measure.

The tax, which generated about $4 million per year, is relatively small compared with other city property taxes, but housing advocates and Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration say it is a critical source of funding — especially when responding to emergencies like the pandemic and Hurricane Ida.

The tax also helped pay for affordable housing development, blight reduction and other homeowner assistance programs.

The revenue helped feed the Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund, which Cantrell tapped to help with insurance premiums after Ida and for a 2020 rental assistance program almost immediately after the pandemic struck — months before federal assistance became available.

The Bureau of Governmental Research, which opposed renewal, contends the Cantrell administration has not properly accounted for the tax proceeds nor devised a concrete spending plan. But supporters of the tax said it is designed to be flexible.

Still, one leading advocate who supported renewal, Andreanecia Morris, of HousingNOLA, agreed the Cantrell administration, along with City Council, needs to be more transparent about how the tax revenue is used. But she said BGR had set up “false choices” in its position against renewal.

“There is a third option. These people can do their jobs, and they can do their jobs well,” Morris said.

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