Enterprise Supports the City of New Orleans in Addressing Racial Inequity
New Orleans mayor LaToya Cantrell recently requested a public hearing and study to summarize opportunities to change the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance based on amendments to the City’s Master Plan. Enterprise’s New Orleans’ office submitted a comment letter applauding the city for taking the initiative to seek opportunities in increasing much needed affordable housing.
Enterprise also encourages the city to use a racial equity lens when viewing any opportunities in developing affordable housing. New Orleans is a city with an iconic legacy that is rich with a history that is as diverse as its people; however, that history also includes racial and ethnic discrimination through policies not only related to housing segregation but other forms of everyday life as well like transportation. Acknowledging and understanding history is paramount to seeing direct links to community issues the city faces today and developing sound solutions.
Since Hurricane Katrina, the black population has had an unequal share of the comeback story by most economic measures. Consider the stats from The Racial Wealth Divide in New Orleans created by the CFED Racial Wealth Divide Initiative:
- Recent estimates suggest that 100,000 fewer black residents live in the city than were present pre-Katrina; the white population has fully recovered.
- Black residents fall behind in financial security with median household income stagnant at $25,806 compared to $64,377 of white households.
- The average Asian and African American home is worth half the value of the average white owned home.
- Six-times as many African American households live in income poverty than white households.
- African American unemployment is above 15% compared to 5% for white unemployment.
These currents stats on inequality in New Orleans underscore the importance of rooting racial equity into any set of recommendations that the City Planning Commission develops. Today, the city has an opportunity in present day to address historical inequities while planning solutions towards a more inclusive New Orleans. Consider the history of zoning as a tool of discrimination during racial redlining. Zoning can currently be used to promote only single-family developments that hinder density close to jobs and transit. This stifles economic development and limits the supply of affordable housing, which has a disproportionate effect on low-income New Orleans residents.
If the city is committed to reducing economic and racial inequality, the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance can be updated to reduce restrictions that currently place a too limited scope of development on certain lot sizes. Expanding zoning regulations to encourage more dense development will help spur the production of affordable units and increase supply for low-income New Orleanians.
Tackling inequality means having the difficult conversations that cut the core of the issue. Given the city’s history of policies that have created and deepened class and race disparities, updates to the City’s Master Plan must include policies specifically and intentionally designed to reverse these inequalities and provide equal opportunity for all New Orleanians.