On the Ballot

Voters reject Amendment 4, aimed at New Orleans affordable housing

By WDSU Digital Team

Source: WDSU

October 12, 2019

Louisiana voters flatly denied New Orleans the right to shield small apartment buildings from property taxes. Amendment 4 on Saturday’s ballot would have given the city power to trim, freeze or eliminate the assessed value for developments with 15 units or less.

Proponents hoped the tax break would fuel affordable housing investment. Opponents prevailed with nearly two-thirds of the vote.

A change to the Louisiana Constitution was needed to give New Orleans the authority to exempt certain sites from property taxes, provided they included affordable dwelling units. Short-term rentals were left out of the proposal.

Housing advocates have estimated more than 30,000 affordable units are needed in New Orleans. Home prices and rental rates have been on a steady climb since 2005 when levee failures during Hurricane Katrina decimated much of the housing stock.

Census figures covering 2013-2017 show 56% of renters in the New Orleans metro area were cost-burdened, spending 30% or more of their household income on housing costs. More than one-third of locals spend 50% or more on housing.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell was the most vocal champion for Amendment 4. She pitched the proposal as a substantial incentive for investors who have been reluctant to shave off profits from market rate housing developments.

The nonpartisan watchdog Bureau of Governmental Research was against the amendment, explaining that not enough was known about how the city would use its new tax exemption authority. An expansion of tax exemptions was also not advisable, given the city’s need for infrastructure resources, according to the BGR report.

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