Last summer, Louisiana lawmakers killed a preemption measure that would have limited city housing policy. SB 162 was approved by the Senate, but never made it past the House.
Now, senators are resurrecting a version of that failed policy. SB 462 would “forbid municipal and parish governments from requiring developers to set aside a certain number of low-income units in order to receive building permits for apartment, condo, single family and other housing projects,” the New Orleans Advocate reports. It was approved 26-11 on Monday, and now heads to the Louisiana House.
As Next City covered last year, that first preemption measure would have sidelined a plan by Mayor Mitch Landrieu (soon to be replaced by Mayor Elect LaToya Cantrell) to mandate that units for low-income residents be set aside in certain parts of the city. His proposal was a response to the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which required municipalities receiving funding from the agency to consider and mitigate structural racism and segregation (the Trump administration recently suspended the rule until 2020). As such, his administration recommended steps toward building integrated neighborhoods, rather than clustering subsidized units. Whether the policies he put in motion will survive the new city administration — as well as state law — remains to be seen.
Housing policy is emerging as yet another flashpoint in the preemption battle between blue city halls and red statehouses (along with paid sick leave, trans rights, plastic bag bans and soda taxes, to name just a few). Last spring, Texas legislators blocked Austin’s attempts to enact linkage fees. Wisconsin, Georgia and a handful of other states forbid cities from establishing rent control policies.
Landrieu’s preferred strategy, often referred to as “inclusionary zoning,” is particularly controversial. Most inclusionary programs are clustered in just three states — New Jersey, California and Massachusetts — where statewide laws or court decisions require them.
“There’s still no broad consensus around the degree to which the policies work,” contributor Jared Brey wrote for Next City in December. “Research suggests that they aren’t a great solution for housing the lowest-income tenants, and many people … argue that the policies can suppress residential development overall.”
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian