Study reveals lack of affordable housing in Louisiana | business news
Before the COVID pandemic, all but two of Charles Aponza’s 15 employees lived in the Mid City and Seventh Ward neighborhoods of New Orleans, where most of the homebuilder’s construction sites are located.
Today, amid the city’s growing lack of affordable housing, all but two live outside of New Orleans in less expensive suburban areas of Metairie, Kenner, or the West Bank.
“Their commutes are twice as long, which means they use more gas,” said Aponza, who founded Bright Horizons Construction in 2017. “And some of them rely on the bus, which takes forever and isn’t always safe.”
Aponza’s situation illustrates how the lack of affordable housing in New Orleans and Louisiana is affecting workers and business owners. And the problem is growing. A new study released by affordable housing advocates at the National Low Income Housing Coalition and Housing LOUISIANA suggests the state has less than half of the affordable and available rental housing or housing it needs.
The study, conducted annually by the Housing Coalition, used 2021 data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey on the demographic and residential characteristics of 3.5 million addresses across the country. Louisiana has 191,769 ultra-low-income households, defined as households below the federal poverty line or earning only 30% of the region’s median income, but only 85,987 affordable rental housing units are available to them, the study found.
The federal poverty line is $30,000 a year for a family of four.
The problem is worse in the New Orleans-Metairie metropolitan area, where nearly a third of renters fall into the ultra-low-income category. According to the study, there is only about one affordable rental apartment for four needy households.
“This is getting worse and we need to act,” said Andreanecia Morris, President of Housing LOUISIANA and Executive Director of Housing NOLA, which advocate for more affordable housing. “The problem will not solve itself.”
The local and national data reflect national trends. The Housing Coalition study found a shortage of 7.3 million affordable and available rental homes for ultra-low-income renter households in the US, meaning there are only 33 rental units for every 100 households.
The coalition is calling on Congress to continue funding the income and housing assistance programs that have kept many low- and low-income households afloat during the pandemic.
The study comes as affordable housing advocates ramp up their criticism of short-term rents and double-to-dormitory projects in neighborhoods across the city.
But while there are efforts to restrict short-term rent permits in residential neighborhoods and even some commercial areas, the city has consistently failed in its goals to create more affordable housing.
Last fall, Housing NOLA released its annual scorecard, which rated New Orleans as deficient in expanding the supply of affordable housing and argued that the city needed 47,000 more affordable units.
Aponza says the issue of affordable housing has a direct impact on his business. The longer commutes and working days of its employees result in higher costs, which Aponza then passes on to customers.
“Of course I have to pay them more, even though they’re only spending that extra income to get themselves to work,” he said. “It’s really difficult, especially with other cost increases. It’s like whack-a-mole – as soon as something comes down, something else goes up.”
Aponza said he also appreciates the irony that many of the homes his company has built are driving up real estate prices in neighborhoods that are now too expensive for his employees.
“How do we sustain a city where the people needed to sustain the city cannot afford to live in it?” he said.