On April 28, 2011, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) and national partner the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL) released a handbook entitled "Strategies to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing: Proposals for the City of New Orleans Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance and Beyond" to address impediments to fair housing in New Orleans. Copies of the handbook have been distributed to members and staff of the City Planning Commission (CPC). GNOFHAC hopes that Commission members will adopt the suggestions laid out in the handbook in the development of the new Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance in order to ensure a more just, economically integrated, and livable New Orleans.
Specifically, the handbook recommends the adoption of two strategies to overcome identified impediments to fair housing in New Orleans:
Inclusionary zoning would incentivize or require developers to provide a certain percentage of affordable housing units in every new development. This policy, used in hundreds of cities throughout the country, would avoid project-by-project political backlash against affordable housing and ensure mixed-income development and more integrated communities, making New Orleans a more competitive, livable place.
A reasonable accommodations policy would provide a written procedure for developers of housing for people with disabilities to follow when requesting reasonable accommodations in zoning and land use decisions, as well as guidelines for the City Planning Commission to follow.
In addition to promoting integration and healthier communities, adopting these strategies would help the city fulfill its duty to affirmatively further fair housing, as required with federal funds such as Community Development Block Grants.
GNOFHAC Executive Director James Perry comments, "This handbook will provide city leaders with information about best practices from hundreds of other cities and counties that will help to ensure that our communities are more competitive and healthy, along with being compliant with federal civil rights requirements. We hope that our leaders will take the opportunity presented by the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance re-write to take a strong stand in favor of equity using the policies detailed in this handbook."
"It is not only crucial to promoting equity and opportunity for all of its citizens, but also a legal duty for cities to takes steps to affirmatively further fair housing choice," said LCCRUL Executive Director Barbara Arnwine. "New Orleans is an iconic place that continues to struggle with segregation and discrimination. City officials have a unique opportunity, and an obligation, to enshrine fair housing strategies in the zoning code, and to make New Orleans a more just place for people of color and for people with disabilities."
The "Strategies to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing" handbook represents an innovative partnership between GNOFHAC and the LCCRUL, which, among other things, enforces fair housing laws throughout the country and provides legal assistance to nonprofit organizations, particularly in the Gulf Coast region.
A copy of the handbook is available at http://www.gnofairhousing.org/pdfs/4-28-11_Strategies_to_Affirmatively_Further_Fair_Housing.pdf, and on GNOFHAC and the Lawyers' Committee's Web sites, www.gnofairhousing.org and www.lawyerscommittee.org/projects/community_development/, respectively.
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