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FAIR HOUSING CENTER OPPOSES LOUISIANA HOUSE BILL 223; CALLS ON CITIZENS TO TAKE A STAND

Monday, May 14, 2007

  • By: Kate Scott
  • Organization: Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center

The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) strongly opposes House Bill 223. If passed, the Bill's effect would be to limit affordable rental housing opportunities across Louisiana. The Bill has the potential to stymie attempts to provide housing opportunities for people with disabilities, the elderly and minorities. GNOFHAC calls on all citizens and advocates to contact Louisiana legislators and state their opposition to the Bill.

Specifically, the Bill yields to the "not in my backyard" sentiment expressed by the Jefferson Parish council and would require the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency to obtain parish governing body approval prior to approving applications for low-income housing tax credits or other "housing programs."

There are six major arguments against the Bill:

  1. Limits the construction of affordable housing: Passage of HB 223 will make it even more difficult for developers to utilize the low-income housing tax credit program in constructing multi-family housing developments. If developers shy away from the program, the result will be a net loss in affordable housing production for the State.
  2. Limits housing for people with disabilities and minorities: Research indicates that people with disabilities and minorities rely disproportionately on low-income tax credit housing. As such any effort to limit tax credit housing will limit housing opportunities for people with disabilities and minorities.
  3. HB 223 is likely illegal: The federal Fair Housing Act as amended in 1988, makes it illegal to discriminate against protected class members, (in this case people with disabilities, African-Americans and Latinos) in the provision of housing regardless of the housing provider's intent. In numerous cases considering laws substantially similar to HB 223, courts have found that government bodies were liable for illegal discrimination against protected class members. As such, HB 223's effect of limiting housing opportunities for protected class members would likely make the Bill illegal.
  4. Endangers federal funding: The Bill has the potential to endanger federal funding for Louisiana. Under the requirements of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program being used by State officials to fund the Road Home and most other Rebuilding Programs, the State must affirmatively further fair housing in all its actions. A Bill that would limit housing opportunities for people with disabilities and minorities would indicate a failure to meet the affirmatively further requirement and possibly cause the state to lose some or all of its CDBG funding.
  5. Sends a bad message to America: The Bill sends a bad message to Congress and the rest of the United States. In Louisiana's time of need and under the leadership of Louisiana's Congressional delegation, Congress awarded a record number of low-income tax credits to Louisiana to replace affordable housing stock destroyed in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Passage of HB 223 would limit the use of these tax credits. Moreover, HB 223 would communicate to Congress and the Nation that Louisiana is playing games with rebuilding funds and failing to take the aid American tax-payers have chosen to provide.
  6. The Bill is duplicative: The Bill is duplicative in nature. City and parish governments already have input in the process because builders are already required to get city/parish approval through the basic permitting process.

GNOFHAC calls on citizens to act quickly and aggressively, by informing Representative Toomey and the members of the Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs Committee (the Committee charged with considering the Bill) that HB 223 must be terminated. Here is a list of actions advocates can take:

  1. Contact the author of HB 223: Call or send a letter or email to Representative Toomey, the author of HB 223 (a sample letter can be located at this link): larep085@legis.state.la.us, (504)361-6013, (504)361-6687 (Fax), P. O. Box 157, Gretna, LA 70054.
  2. Contact the Committee Considering HB 223: Call or send a letter or email to the members of the Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs Committee. A sample letter can be located at this link. The contact information for each of the members of the Committee can be located at this link.
  3. Testify against HB 223: Testify in opposition to the Bill at the Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs Committee hearing. Contact Committee Staff to arrange testimony (Valerie Banks, 225-342-2401 or banksv@legis.state.la.us).


    What is the Fair Housing Action Center, Inc.?

    The Fair Housing Action Center, Inc., is a private non-profit established in August 1995 with help from the National Fair Housing Alliance and a grant from U.S. HUD. FHAC is a private, non-profit organization that will work to further the goal of fair housing and open neighborhoods in the greater New Orleans area. GNOFHAC is dedicated to eliminating housing discrimination and furthering equal housing opportunities through education, outreach, advocacy, and enforcement of fair housing laws across the metro New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas.

    The activity discussed in this email is not funded by HUD.

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