Janet R. Howard, The Lens contributing opinion writer |

On May 24, The Lens posted an article from Sara Meadows Tolleson on a bill proposed by House Speaker Jim Tucker to consolidate three housing agencies into a new entity.  After discussing the need for amendments, Ms. Tolleson attacked the accuracy of a study by the Bureau of Governmental Research on the supply of subsidized rental housing, calling it a “flawed report” and claiming that the study had been “rebutted” by research from the University of New Orleans.

The BGR report to which Ms. Tolleson refers, The House that Uncle Sam Built: The Continued Expansion of Subsidized Housing in New Orleans (2009), examined the post-Katrina changes in the supply of subsidized rental housing in the City of New Orleans and the region. It projected that by 2012:

  • New Orleans will have approximately 35,700 units of subsidized rental housing – an increase of approximately 15,800 units (80%) over the pre-Katrina level.
  • Subsidized rental units as a percentage of all housing will more than double, rising from 10% pre-Katrina to 25%.
  • The number of housing units for very low-income households will increase by 3,600 (22%) over pre-Katrina levels.
  • Although it will have only 27% of the region’s population, New Orleans will have 70% of the subsidized housing in the region.

BGR’s report is not flawed, the numbers having held up under close scrutiny in two separate studies. Nor, according to Dr. Ivan Miestchovich, Director of UNO’s Institute of Economic Development and Real Estate Research, is BGR’s report rebutted by UNO’s housing study. Indeed, the two studies are complementary.

BGR quantified the post-Katrina growth in one segment of the housing market – the supply of subsidized rental housing – and specifically called for the development of a comprehensive picture of current and future housing supply and demand.  UNO, working with GCR & Associates Inc., has now delivered the comprehensive market assessment.

As BGR has previously stated, policymakers should strive for a housing market that accommodates different income levels without placing a disproportionate burden on the city. Now that they have numbers for supply and demand in both subsidized and market- rate segments, policymakers can work on a comprehensive strategy to ensure that the subsidized housing supply is sized and situated appropriately to the overall market.

We invite readers to examine the two studies at www.bgr.org/files/reports/BGR-09_Housing.pdf and doa.louisiana.gov/cdbg/dr/drreports.htm.

Janet Howard president and CEO of the Bureau of Governmental Research, a non-profit watchdog organization that analyzes local governance and economic issues.