NEW ORLEANS - The cost of housing for many is getting higher and the same can soon be said for public housing residents. To fall in line with Federal regulations, the Housing Authority of New Orleans, or HANO, will be raising rental rates for new tenants moving into public housing units after June first. In some cases, the rent could be triple what it is now.
"We know that residents of public housing either have to be working and tend to generally work in low wage jobs, or they're elderly or disabled, so they're on a fixed income. So generally, we would have a concern about an increase in rents," said Kate Scott, the assistant director at the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center.
The new rental rates will affect new tenants with the potential of impacting the minimum rent for some existing tenants over time. A spokesperson for HANO says most of the roughly 1,800 public housing residents in New Orleans are enrolled in a program in which 30 percent of their income is dedicated to rent and utilities. The plan is an alternative to paying the flat rental rate which can often be well above the income-based option.
Carmel Powell has lived at the Harmony Oaks Apartments for four years. She says HANO's assistance programs have allowed her to have stable housing. The new public housing developments have a markedly different look than their predecessors and Powell says it goes beyond just aesthetics.
"It's quiet, it's peaceful, and I just love it," said Powell.
At what used to be the old Lafitte Housing Projects, the skeleton of future units is being built. The rental rate for a two bedroom apartment could be as high as $750/month. That may be offset by the income-based payment option. Without such options, residents like Carmel Powell say they would likely have no option at all.
'It's a wonderful program, you know because without them, a lot of us wouldn't be able to make it."
This story was developed with our partners at the New Orleans Advocate.