NEW ORLEANS —
In Central City, Jose Rodriguez and his little pup are finally making themselves at home.
“I was lucky to find this place,” Rodriguez said.
When he moved to New Orleans from Miami five months ago, Rodriguez had trouble finding a place to stay. He says rent is just too high.
“Especially when they want first month, last month and security. It’s hard,” Rodriguez said.
He’s now living in a building where he says his landlord will transform it into a boarding house for low income renters. The news comes as a tearful relief for Rodriguez.
“Almost every month, I was thinking I was gonna end up on the street because I couldn’t afford the rent. But, god has blessed me. Many times I thought I’d be alone with my little dog on the street because I didn’t have enough for rent. But I’m okay now," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez’s neighbors Nanette Raymond and Ashley Carter feel his frustration. Raymond said she works multiple jobs just so that she can have a place to lay her head.
"I worry about if I don't pay my bills. Or if I lose my job today or tomorrow, where am I gonna go. And I sure not about to be under that bridge. And that's where a lot of them are at,” Raymond said.
On Monday Mayor LaToya Cantrell, Gov. John Bel Edwards and the tourism industry reached a monumental deal that will provide millions of dollars to fix the city’s streets and drainage system.
The mayor and her staff have been pushing leaders of the tourism industry and the New Orleans Ernest Morial Convention Center to make a deal for weeks, with the Governor’s office acting as a negotiator.
The deal announced Monday morning would provide $50 million in one-time money. $28 million of that would come from the Convention Center and $22 million would come from unspent money in the state's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
The deal also provides $17.5 million over five years by delaying repayments the city owes the state for go zone payments.
But Andreancia Morris with HousingNOLA said this agreement takes money away from affordable housing.
"There were plans afoot to create a dedicated revenue source for our local trust fund that would put the need of the voting populous in the forefront when it comes to affordable housing. That opportunity is now lost. That money is going to tourism. Tourism marketing and we find that unfathomable,” Morris said.
Critics argue that Cantrell's efforts to give money to tourism goes against the "Fair Share" campaign that she launched last fall, in which she argued that tourism entities get too large a share of the hotel/motel taxes and that more should go towards municipal services.
Last week, Housing NOLA released it's semi-annual report, which shows New Orleans is not creating enough affordable housing opportunities to keep up with the city's affordable housing crisis.
The HousingNOLA Community Development Finance plan calls for $5.8 billion to end New Orleans' crisis.
"We haven't seen a lot of plans and strategies out of this administration. There have been things we've asked for. We know we're in alignment with the Mayor. She's been a long time supporter of HousingNOLA when she started initially. But, we haven't seen the concrete strategies coming out of her administration," Morris said.
Cantrell's Communication’s Director Beau Tidwell issued the following statement in response to the concerns:
“Affordable housing has been and remains a priority for this administration. Critical funding for infrastructure is necessarily a part of any long-term solutions on housing. The two are not at odds.
It’s all interconnected. Today’s infrastructure agreement will have a ripple effect to stimulate business opportunities for all businesses including MWE/WBE, and it will help create living wage jobs. A commitment of $202M towards critical infrastructure in the next five years is unalloyed good news for the City."
People living paycheck to paycheck, however, say they’re not seeing the relief.
“Tourism is the biggest part of the city's income. OK, but you got to think about your workers that live here. That help support that tourism. Because if it wasn't for us, you wouldn't have the tourist,” Raymond said.