At the April 6 general meeting, the City Council approved an expansion of an Interim Zoning District (IZD) in the University Area Off-Street Parking Overlay District. This overlay district imposes regulations for a limited amount of time (one year) that mandates new construction or additions to standing homes must add one parking space per additional bedroom. While supposedly imposing a hurdle on overpriced off-campus student housing (so-called “doubles-to-dorms”) that displaces New Orleanians, the car-centric measure struck several commenters as convoluted and ineffective. This vote expanded the overlay to several neighborhoods, including Broadmoor and Fontainebleau, so that the overall overlay district covers 5.5 square miles, and excludes the Leonidas and Hollygrove neighborhoods. The comments below were submitted online and in-person before the Council.
In general, this IZD has evolved from addressing the proliferation of student housing to blocking any form of rental housing in this affected area. Or perhaps that was the intent all along. The plan now is to expand off-street parking requirements in neighborhoods that have yet to experience an influx of student housing developments. Even the recent amendments intended to exclude affordable housing development from these requirements serve as potential exclusionary zoning considering land costs. Two things can be true at once. Doubles to dorm conversions are a problem. But that problem is not being solved through Councilmember Giarrusso’s Interim Zoning [District]. No matter how many loopholes you close, the City Council will continue to dedicate a block of their meetings to approving individual appeals to this convoluted IZD.1Romy L., HousingNOLA
We see these doubles-to-dorms developers as similar to short-term rental speculators. You have to really thread a needle on this because if you don’t, you end up making it more expensive to build two bedroom apartments, single family homes, and affordable housing. Our concern is that this is an overcorrection that will make things worse. It requires parking spaces for two and three bedroom homes which are a part of the regular marketplace for our residents and not for students. And because the language here around affordability doesn’t match what’s already in the CZO [Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance], this IZD could make it harder for affordable developers to use inclusionary zoning, the affordable housing plan development, and the small multifamily affordable housing provisions that already exist in the CZO.2Maxwell C., Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center
Private dorm developers are branching out and doing harm in the name of profit. This is commercial development aimed at students, not working tenants or families. Private dorm developers have bought more than 100 neighborhood houses in the last five years. They may well be in violation of fair housing rules by renting only to students. That is the source of the profit. The renovations done to former single homes and doubles cannot easily be undone. Ten bedrooms, seriously? This is just one way that we are irretrievably losing our local housing stock in a historic district.3Elaine L., Carrollton-Riverbend Neighborhood Association
Nobody likes this ordinance. It leads to paving over yards. It seems to be unenforceable except in the most restrictive form of the IZD.4Susan J.
I wrote to oppose the university area off street parking IZD. I 100% support the council’s fight to limit short-term rentals and the dorms-to-doubles phenomenon. And I appreciate the council’s focus on protecting our neighborhoods. This IZD simply goes too far.5Emily R.
To follow up on this issue, you can email your City councilmembers. To submit a public comment, follow instructions at council.nola.gov. Interested in reading all comments after a meeting? You can email your councilmember or file a public records request.
illustration by Sadie Wiese