Housing Advocates, BGR Saves More Than $ 4 Million In New Orleans Property Tax | Local politics


New Orleans voters will decide on Saturday to continue paying a $ 4 million property tax for housing assistance.

The $ 0.91 million levy is relatively small compared to other city-wide property taxes, but housing advocates say it provides significant funding to develop affordable housing, help homeowners and end the scourge .

The nonprofit Bureau of Governmental Research, however, advises voters to reject it. He says Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration failed to factor in existing tax revenue and failed to develop adequate spending plans.

A leading government watchdog is recommending that New Orleans voters renew one property tax that expires in the Dec. 11 poll, but reject another.

While some housing advocates disagree on Cantrell’s case, they are united in their scathing critiques of the BGR report. They point out that a 12-year-old BGR report sounded the alarm about a “drastic” increase in the number of subsidized housing, which they say hampered reconstruction after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“We are not surprised that BGR is opposed to this affordable housing fund,” said Maxwell Ciardullo, director of policy at the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center. “They actually helped create the housing crisis we still find ourselves in. “

Voters first approved the tax in 1991. Renewing it on Saturday would extend it for 20 years.

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The proceeds go to the Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund, which the town hall can use for various housing initiatives. With that flexibility, the Cantrell administration quickly implemented a rent assistance program last year when the pandemic struck, months before federal funding was available.

BGR endorsed this achievement in a December 2020 report, saying federal funding “cannot match the flexibility and stability” of the local housing fund. Likewise, the Cantrell administration appealed to the housing fund to cover insurance deductibles after Hurricane Ida hit on August 29.

“These are all real things the money was used for. I haven’t heard anyone argue against any of them, ”Ciardullo said.

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But in its last report on the tax, in November, BGR said the Cantrell administration had failed to provide a precise breakdown of how the revenue had been used. The administration also has not made plans for how it will spend future revenue, according to the report.

BGR vice president Stephen Stuart said the suggestion that BGR is biased against affordable housing is unfair.

“BGR has always been concerned about the government’s ability to plan strategically, pay for the programs it promises and achieve effective results,” said Stuart. “The report also found critical gaps in city planning and housing tax liability that undermine its potential effectiveness. “

Cantrell spokesman Beau Tidwell countered that the administration had “successfully pulled” tax revenue with state and federal government money, calling the housing fund “a very important tool. used to solve the housing issues facing the people of New Orleans ”.

HousingNOLA executive director Andreanecia Morris agrees that the administration has not been transparent with the council tax. But she said BGR is setting up “false choices where the only options are mismanagement or no money.”

“There is a third option: these people can do their jobs, and they can do their jobs well,” Morris said, referring to administration and city council.

Morris pointed to a 2015 ordinance, which Cantrell sponsored as a board member, requiring an expert advisory committee to provide recommendations on how the housing fund is used. The committee, which is made up of nine people appointed by the mayor, must review funding requests and proposed projects, and meet in public at least once a year.

But we do not know how active the committee has been in recent years. A city government website listing the members says their terms expired in 2019. Cantrell’s housing manager, Marjorianna Willman, said at a city council meeting in August that the committee met in 2020 to budgeted for the housing fund, but the budget she shared did. contain line items.

Either way, Morris said the committee was not meeting the demands Cantrell launched six years ago.

“This is legislation that Councilor Cantrell enacted that Mayor Cantrell did not follow,” Morris said.


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