Improving Access to Affordable Housing through Equitable City Planning

January 15, 2022

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FUSE Corps

Many in New Orleans spend 50% of their earnings on housing, exacerbating issues of generational poverty. And following Covid-19 and the disproportionate health and wealth impacts of the pandemic, the city is particularly sensitive to the affordable housing crisis. In order to support improved housing outcomes for New Orleans residents, the City Planning Commission will partner with FUSE Corps to assess the opportunities for implementing solutions to bring the city’s various stakeholders and interests together to increase the availability of and access to affordable housing.

This fellowship project begins on April 25, 2022, and ends on April 24, 2023. The fellowship begins with a multi-day virtual orientation the week of April 25, 2022. The selected Executive Fellow will begin their first day of providing services to the host agency on May 2, 2022.

PROJECT CONTEXT 

The New Orleans City Planning Commission is a nine-member citizen board appointed by the Mayor and approved by the City Council. The City Planning Commission provides analysis and recommendations to the City Council on matters dealing with the present and future development of the City, in accordance with the goals and policies of the City’s Plan for the 21st Century (the Master Plan). Following the damaging impacts of hurricane Katrina, the Master Plan includes protections that sought to protect neighborhoods and minimize encroachment of commercial development that did not serve the housing needs of rebuilding a devastated New Orleans.

While the Master Plan was able to address concerns about protecting neighborhoods, much of the City has been zoned in ways that proved to be exclusionary to the majority of the city’s residents. While neighborhood residents were involved in some of the processes that led to these zoning outcomes, communities most severely impacted by hurricane Katrina may have been disproportionately left out of the community input processes. Given high housing costs, many in New Orleans spend 50% of their earnings on housing, exacerbating issues of generational poverty. In addition, following COVID-19 and the disproportionate health and wealth impacts of the pandemic, the city is particularly sensitive to the affordable housing crisis. In July 2021, Mayor Cantrell passed a mandatory inclusionary housing policy. The policy paves the way for opportunities to increase access to and availability of affordable housing. A Housing Opportunities Study has also begun, which is exploring ways in which the City’s Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO) can be amended to better facilitate the production of affordable housing units.

In order to support improved housing outcomes for New Orleans residents, the City Planning Commission will partner with FUSE Corps to host an executive fellow for one year to assess the opportunities for implementing solutions to bring the city’s various stakeholders and interests together to increase the availability of and access to affordable housing, and reducing the significant financial burden that housing costs represent for many of the city’s underserved residents.

PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES

The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables that follow will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Fellow and the host agency.

Starting in April 2022, it is proposed that the FUSE Fellow will work to quickly build deep relationships with a wide range of critical stakeholders, including staff across departments, local non-profits, community-based organizations, and commercial interests to understand the current affordable housing crisis. This includes revamping public engagement processes in order to work towards facilitating more equitable housing outcomes. The fellow will spearhead mapping existing zoning ordinances, the current inventory of affordable housing, solutions that have a high potential for creating additional inventory, and approaches to giving quick access to those most in need. The fellow will research best practices being employed in other cities and counties throughout the country to identify innovative solutions that could be implemented in New Orleans.

The fellow will utilize this map analysis to develop the City Planning Commission’s strategy to address the affordable housing crisis. This strategy should help to address the needs of underserved communities for whom generational poverty is exacerbated by high housing costs. The strategy will not only include recommendations on increasing the affordable housing inventory, but also how to ensure equitable access for those families and communities most in need. The fellow will make the case for the critical nature of this work in order to help secure the necessary resources for its continued implementation. This framework should provide data-driven evidence demonstrating the need to work across stakeholder lines to address housing needs. The fellow will then begin the implementation of these recommendations. Ultimately, this affordable housing strategy will help the City Planning Commission and other City agencies to provide equitable housing options to underserved families.

  • Assess the current landscape and review best practices: Gain an in-depth understanding of existing efforts, policies, ordinances and interests related to the city’s affordable housing availability and access, as well as map planned or existing initiatives. Research approaches used in other cities who have sought to balance development and affordable housing interests. Identify regulatory and procedural impediments to creating affordable housing.
  • Identify opportunities to align with and supplement existing initiatives: Identify opportunities to improve outcomes by partnering with existing initiatives from commercial, community and city actors. Include challenges and barriers to increasing collaboration between key stakeholders, and ways in which the City Planning Commission can work to overcome those challenges.
  • Engage internal and external stakeholders to establish deep relationships and design recommendations: Demonstrate cross-cultural agility and successfully engage with all relevant stakeholders. Establish relationships with other agencies, community-based organizations, neighborhood representation, commercial developers, and other key customer groups to design approaches to public engagement that lead to viable solutions with buy-in across stakeholders. Consider innovative approaches to housing types and developments that have not yet been tested in New Orleans.
  • Map process improvements with strategies and timelines for implementation – Create a sustainable strategy for improving access to affordable housing. Strategy should include carefully sequenced phases designed to build momentum and ensure smooth transitions for all key stakeholders. Include prioritized initiatives, deliverables, timelines, budgets, staffing needs and change management approaches.
  • Support long-term implementation and ensure initiative sustainability – Develop a robust implementation plan that leads to initial policy/ordinance changes as well as partnerships being in place by the end of the first year. Include goals and systems for monitoring progress. 

KEY STAKEHOLDERS

  • Project Supervisor – Robert Rivers, Executive Director, New Orleans City Planning Commission
  • Rachael Berg – Assistant Planning Administrator, City Planning Commission

ADDITIONAL STAKEHOLDERS

  • Rachael Berg – Assistant Planning Administrator, City Planning Commission
  • Nicole Heyman – Director, Mayor’s Office of Community Assets and Investments
  • Sydney Shivers – Deputy Director, Mayor’s Office of Community Assets and Investments
  • Marjoriana Wilman – Director, Office of Community Development
  • Jeff Schwartz – Director, Office of Economic Development
  • Kelly Butler – Inclusionary Zoning Administrator, Department of Safety & Permits
  • Ray Bolling – Director, Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Engagement

QUALIFICATIONS

  • At least 15 years of professional experience in urban planning or related field, with a strong background in project management and community engagement
  • Background in strategic planning preferred
  • Superior critical thinking and analytical skills, including the ability to quickly map various stakeholders and initiatives
  • Capacity to identify best practices, understand data and evidence and use it to support a business case, and make a persuasive argument to support recommendations
  • Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations
  • Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use facilitative leadership techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities
  • Self-motivated and goal-oriented leader who can also be an independent worker
  • Ability to relate to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with an ease in public presentations
  • Ability to sustain progress within potentially ambiguous environments
  • Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity
FUSE Corps is an equal opportunity employer with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives into our work at every level. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.
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