Post-Katrina Programs a Blueprint for Housing the Working Class

The housing initiatives developed after Hurricane Katrina teach valuable lessons for post-pandemic affordable housing production.

2 minute read

September 7, 2021, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

New Orleans

Pierre Jean Durieu / Shutterstock

"Skyrocketing rents over the last decade combined with housing developments geared toward the wealthy have pushed musicians, artists and hospitality and service industry workers further and further from their jobs in the French Quarter, CBD and Marigny" neighborhoods of New Orleans, writes Sarah Ravits. "And now, the COVID-19 pandemic and looming evictions once again have thousands of New Orleanians desperate and frustrated."

But 16 years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, "New Orleans has something of a road map to follow" when it comes to creating more affordable housing. Ravits highlights examples such as Musicians' Village, a Habitat for Humanity project that built housing for 70 residents who lost their homes in Katrina, as proof that "it’s possible to create quality, long-term affordable housing for the artists and workers who are the backbone of New Orleans."

Casius Pealer, director of Tulane’s Master of Sustainable Real Estate Development program, says the biggest lesson from post-Katrina housing "is similar to the housing lesson we have learned in the pandemic: Housing is infrastructure." Musicians' Village "was a unique partnership between private funders, nonprofits and government which were able to come together in a remarkably short period of time to solve an enormous problem."

"As housing continued to be a challenge, other projects took form in the years immediately following Katrina. These housing initiatives were designed to help subsidize and support the city’s creatives and low- to medium-income earners." HousingNOLA’s Executive Director Andreanecia Morris "sees New Orleans as a place that could set a national standard on how to get its working class into reliable houses. The city’s previous experience with rebuilding and some of its post-Katrina developments could be inspirational to other struggling cities who are also experiencing a housing crisis."

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