Activists march to call attention to affordable housing crisis

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By Adrienne Underwood, Uptown Messenger

Protesters gathered Nov. 2 to march in the #PutHousingFirst March, a demonstration calling for affordable housing in the city.

“This is a message to send to corporate America, to the politicians, to the slum lords, to everyone who’s taking advantage of the people who make less money, to increase the wages and work diligently at creating affordable housing,” said GNOHA’s Fred J. Johnson Jr.

The march and rally were an effort by the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance and Home by Hand to spread awareness about the city’s need for affordable housing and encourage community involvement.

Organizers urged attendees to vote against all three of Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s revenue-related ballot propositions. GNOHA announced that it opposes the Short Term Rentals Occupancy Tax Proposition, the New Orleans Millage Proposition and the New Orleans Bond Proposition, saying that the initiatives do not support affordable housing, a claim the Mayor’s Office firmly denies.

“Affordable housing is a central component of (the ballot initiatives),” said City Hall spokesman Beau Tidwell.

The housing activists say it is not a large enough component. “The people in the city will have to pay increased taxes, which they cannot afford as it is right now, in order to get a short-sighted and really unimpactful pool of money way down the line,” HousingNOLA Executive Director Andreanecia Morris. “We need housing right now, we need housing funding right now.”

In September, Cantrell held meetings in each district to discuss affordable housing and explain her initiatives. A state-wide constitutional amendment aimed at easing the problem was on the Oct. 12 ballot but failed to pass.

Cantrell’s office says the current ballot initiatives are aimed at helping citizens get their Fair Share and addressing critical infrastructure needs.

Revenue from the proposed short-term rental occupancy tax will be split between infrastructure (75 percent) and New Orleans & Co., the city’s tourism marketing group (25 percent).

“Taking short-term rental revenue and giving it to anything but affordable housing — it’s a slap in the face,” Morris said.

The bond proposition will sell $500 million in General Obligation Bonds starting in 2020 to fund projects in three categories. The proposition allocates bond sales of $250 million for drainage and other infrastructure improvements, $225 million for public buildings and equipment, and $25 million to affordable housing.

“The bond proposition alone is planned to devote $25 million specifically to help address the affordable housing crisis,” Tidwell said in a written statement. “Investments in our infrastructure and maintenance, which these ballot initiatives provide for, are a vital part of any conversation around affordable housing.”

Organizers criticized what they see as a lack of urgency regarding affordable housing solutions.

“There are immediate solutions that aren’t being deployed right now and we can’t vote for things that might create solutions in the future, we need solutions today,” Morris said.

The march began at Taps II and proceeded through Central City. A rally at Guste Park followed the march.

Contact Adrienne Underwood via email at or follow her on Twitter @adrienneunderwd.

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