Housing Production Needs

Today the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center released the report “Housing Production Needs: Three Scenarios for New Orleans” where they explore the issue of just how much housing is needed now, and how much more may be needed in the future. What they found is that it’s extremely difficult to quantify the total supply of housing units under production right now due to poor tracking of housing construction, faulty technology and inconsistent data collection. It’s almost impossible for anyone to determine that there is too much affordable housing. However, the GNOCDC report has found that the New Orleans housing market has yet to provide affordable units for the vast majority of households making between $20,000 and $35,000 a year, and virtually no housing for those making less than $20,000 a year — together, roughly a quarter of New Orleans workforce.

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The finding challenges statements made last month by Louisiana House Speaker Jim Tucker (R-Algiers) at a State Bond Commission hearing. Tucker says there is an overabundance of subsidized rental units and that the state should as a result put a moratorium on developing more subsidized housing until a complete review is done.
Echoes of the overabundance charge can be found in a report released by the Bureau of Government Research entitled The House that Uncle Sam Built: The Continued Expansion of Subsidized Housing in New Orleans, released in May. Within that report, BGR stated that by 2012 subsidized rental units would make up 25% of all housing, and that the number of units for very low-income households will be 22% higher than the amount available before the storm.  Though GNOCDC determined in today’s report that accounting for slow job and population growth, an additional 3,598 units will be needed by 2012 under current trends, Rep. Tucker and other state officials have used the BGR math to put in place a temporary moratorium on developing more affordable housing until further review of the housing stock is provided.

In Housing Production Needs, there are three scenarios examined to project what the demand will be for subsidized housing based off of future growth:

  • a “status quo” future, where job and population growth track closely to where they are today
  • a moderate growth future based off a projection of more jobs shifting to New Orleans, hence more households requiring affordable housing
  • a best-case future where public policy strengthens social conditions paving the way for robust growth and population reaches pre-Katrina levels by 2020.

The report sees the “status quo” as the most likely scenario, with 15,523 new housing units needed by 2020, but if the “robust growth” scenario is met then 66,752 units will be needed. In any scenario, there will be roughly 10,000 units needed to accommodate New Orleans’ homeless population, which is double what it was before Hurricane Katrina. As for federally subsidized housing units already in the pipeline — in terms of housing created using low income housing tax credits, community development block grants, and Section 8 vouchers — there are approximately 7,754 units planned for completion in the near future. Many of those are pending that the placed-in-service dates for their completion will be extended and GO Zone LIHTCs can be exchanged for grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus package. There are additional plans from the Housing Authority of New Orleans for 1,231 units (beyond those they’ve financed through LIHTCs), but no specific funding commitments have been identified for them. Another 1,400 units hope to be produced using LIHTCs and Section 8 vouchers but they also lack financing commitments from either private investors or bonds issued by the State Bond Commission.

The bottom-line on this report is that those who are homeless, are of very low-income and low-income households lack affordable housing today, and this number is certain to grow even in the limited “status quo” future. The idea that there is already an excess supply of affordable housing is wrong.

— Brentin Mock