HousingNOLA’s Master Plan Amendments

At a NEWCITY Neighborhood Partnership meeting in August 2016, a resident raised concern for the individuals who are the “bloodline or our city” but are priced out of the urban core – “We cannot continue to leave people behind because they don’t have the resources, and we can’t pretend that the market is going to fix the problem.” The packed room broke out into applause. At the same time, HousingNOLA was researching and compiling its proposed Master Plan amendments to address this very issue. New Orleans is facing an affordable housing crisis where lower- and middle- income families are being pushed to the edges of the city, away from jobs and opportunities. In order to ensure sustained and equitable growth, we need to give more people the opportunity to live in the urban core, near frequent transit stops.

HousingNOLA’s proposed amendments to the Master Plan are the first of many steps to address this issue head on. One proposed change moves certain areas that are located near high-frequency transit corridors, and/or areas that have 30-minute transit access to major job centers, from the “Mixed-Use Low Density” (MUL) Master Plan Category to the “Mixed-Use Medium Density” (MUM) Master Plan Category. Another change is to eliminate numbers that define the maximum number of “units per acre” within many of the residential land use categories. This will lay the groundwork for neighbors to engage on where adding additional housing is best for the community and what that should look like.

New Orleans’ neighborhoods are unique and treasured, as such the proposed amendments are carefully designed to not threaten the historic nature of the neighborhoods or result in an influx of high-rise buildings. The changes simply create more discretion for neighbors and the Council to work together on individual cases. The changes are not designed or intended to allow the highest possible density in all of the affected areas. Also, the zoning of all the areas affected is not changing as a result of this Master Plan amendment, meaning that all of the existing zoning that limits the density of development will still apply. Additionally, the areas that have been selected are along major commercial corridors or represent underdeveloped areas that are not located in the core of historic neighborhoods. These areas selected already allow mixed-use development according to the Master Plan, so this change does not encroach on areas that were designated solely for residential development.

HousingNOLA proposed amendments were considered by City Planning Commission staff and included in their staff recommendations. The modified recommendations were accepted by the City Planning Commission at the January 24 and February 7, 2017, public hearings. There are several more opportunities to get involved with the amendment process. Specifically, there will be a number of public hearings surrounding the first City Council vote, the second City Planning Commission vote and the final City Council vote. You can find more information on the amendment process, and the amendments, in the Committee for a Better New Orleans’ ‘Community Guide To The Master Plan Amendments.’ GNOHA will also be emailing information through their Put Housing First campaign listserv. Please sign up here!

Now is the time for us to come together to ensure our most vulnerable residents are able to continue living and working in our city. If New Orleans is going to remain a great and vibrant city, we need to include the people who make it so. We cannot remain static in the face of a crisis – instead let’s move forward together.

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