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Security Deposits

Posted on 05. Apr, 2018 by

Security deposit law is to supposed to ensure that responsible renters who don’t damage their home receive their security deposit back at the end of their lease. However, Louisiana’s current landlord-tenant laws fail to do just that. We can all agree that both renters and landlords should play fair, but too many bad apple landlords in Louisiana don’t return security deposits, and politicians are not holding them responsible for it.

Louisiana law currently has few consequences for landlords who don’t return deposits. At most, a judge may penalize them $200, leaving little incentive for landlords to do the right thing. Neighboring states, including, Texas, Arkansas, and Alabama have significantly larger penalties for landlords that wrongfully withhold security deposits. In those states, a landlord who illegally keeps a security deposit must pay double or triple the amount withheld.

Disputes between landlords and renters are handled in court. Most of Louisiana’s neighbors have laws which require landlords to cover attorney fees and court costs if they’ve broken the law. In Louisiana, however, there’s no guarantee that those costs won’t fall to the renters. Most renters don’t even bother to go to court because the up front costs can be more than $100 and recovering those fees it is a financial gamble.

If more renters, including our college students, seniors, and working families, got their security deposits back, they could afford things like books, uniforms, groceries, and doctors bills. Renters living in bad conditions—like moldy or roach infested apartments—wouldn’t end up trapped because they couldn’t afford the deposit on a new place. To most people, a $600, $700 or $800 deposit could mean the difference between being stuck in a bad situation and finding a safe place for their family.

Louisiana lawmakers have the power to pass common-sense laws to prevent dishonest landlords from wrongfully taking money from renters. Better laws would level the playing field between renters and landlords in court disputes so both parties are required to play fair. Families work hard to pay security deposits and the least we can do is make sure they get what they’re owed.

Tell us how you would spend your security deposit if your landlord actually returned it.

Dr. King’s Fight for Open Housing

Posted on 03. Apr, 2018 by

When envisioning the Civil Rights Movement, many people probably think of Rosa Parks in Alabama, school desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas, or sit-ins in North Carolina. Northern cities are not usually the first to come to mind. The Open Housing Movement, however, was born not in the South, but in Chicago, Illinois.

Seminary student Jesse Jackson was put in charge of the Chicago branch of Operation Breadbasket. Source: Oxford African American Studies Center 

When Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) arrived in Chicago in 1966, racism and segregation were widespread, but so was grassroots activism. Organizations like the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations, led by schoolteacher Albert Raby, worked to desegregate schools. Dr. King’s arrival on the scene brought national attention and exposure to a pervasive problem. The SCLC launched the Chicago branch of Operation Breadbasket, which won thousands of jobs for black people in the dairy, soda, and supermarket industries under the leadership of seminary student Jesse Jackson. Tenants’ unions cropped up in an effort to reveal inhumane living conditions in slums, and tenants engaged in rent strikes. When real estate firms attempted to evict the striking renters, legal support from the tenants’ unions made it impossible, and the firms were forced to negotiate.

In conjunction with the Chicago Freedom Movement (a campaign to bring civil rights activities to the north), Dr. King and the SCLC held rallies and peaceful protests outside real estate offices and in all-white neighborhoods. One such march turned violent when demonstrators were met with an angry white mob. The mob threw bottles and bricks, and Dr. King was hit by a rock. Of the experience, Dr. King said “I’ve been in many demonstrations all across the South, but I can say that I have never seen, even in Mississippi and Alabama, mobs as hostile and as hate-filled as I’m seeing in Chicago.”

Dr. King speaks with reporters during a demonstration against Balin Real Estate. Source: Oxford African American Studies Center

As the movement pushed forward, Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley was eager to find a way to end the demonstrations and restore order. He met with Dr. King and other lead activists to work out a summit agreement, which culminated in the creation of one of the nation’s first fair housing organizations, the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities. The summit also resulted in the Chicago Housing Authority promising to build some public housing units, and the Mortgage Bankers Association agreeing to make mortgages available regardless of race.

Despite the alleged success, the agreements made at the summit were barely enforced. Dr. King expressed his disappointment in this result just one year later, saying “it appears that for all intents and purposes, the public agencies have [reneged] on the agreement and have, in fact given credence to [those] who proclaim the housing agreement a sham and a batch of false promises.” After Dr. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968, riots broke out across the country. The public’s reaction to his death was so intense that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle felt they had no choice but to take action, if not to honor Dr. King’s mission then to pacify protestors. As a result, the Fair Housing Act was passed just one week later.


To learn more about the Chicago Open Housing Movement, check out the following links:

50 Years Ago, Martin Luther King Jr. Fought for Open Housing in Chicago

The Chicago Campaign

Seven Days Documentary

Operation Breadbasket

Fair Housing Month Events

Posted on 02. Apr, 2018 by

April 3rd: Landlord-Tenant and Fair Housing Laws: Understanding Your Rights and Responsibilities (Lafayette, LA)

GNOFHAC will conduct a training on landlord-tenant and fair housing laws from 9:30am-12:30pm at 301 W Congress St. in Lafayette, Louisiana. The training is free and open to the public.

April 5th: GNOFHAC presents at New Orleans City Council Meeting

GNOFHAC is speaking at the opening of Thursday’s Council Meeting at 10am to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act and share our upcoming events and trainings in honor of National Fair Housing Month. 

April 5th: Fair Housing and Gender-Based Violence Training (Monroe, LA)

GNOFHAC is partnering with Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault for a training on fair housing, sexual assault and sexual harassment at the Public Safety Center at 1810 Martin Luther King Blvd. in Monroe from 1-4pm. There is no cost to participate, but please register here.

 

 

 


April 11th: The 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act

VOTE and STAND with Dignity are having a Fair Housing for All Second Line on April 11th at 5pm, beginning at MLK Blvd. and Willow St.

 

 

 

 

 

April 14th: Fair Housing Workshop at LA Queer Conference

GNOFHAC will conduct a Know Your Rights Workshop at the Louisiana Queer Conference. Visit their website for more information or to register.

April 16th: Know Your Housing Rights Training at Tulane University

GNOFHAC is conducting a Know Your Rights Training at the Lavin Bernick Center at Tulane University on April 16th from 4:30-6pm. The training is free and open to the public.

 

 

 

April 19th: Know Your Rights Training at NORAPC

GNOFHAC is conducting a Know Your Housing Rights training with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative, and the New Orleans Regional Aids Planning Council on April 19th from 5-7pm at NORAPC, 2601 Tulane Ave in the 2nd floor conference center. The training is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to Gregory at (504) 821-7334.

 

 

 

April 20th: Know Your Housing Rights and Responsibilities Training (Kenner, LA)

GNOFHAC is conducting a Know Your Housing Rights and Responsibilities Training on April 20th from 9:30-11:30am for tenants and landlords at the Martin Luther King Community Resource Center at 1042 31st St. in Kenner. The training is free and open to the public.

 

 

 

April 25th: 6th Annual Community Crawfish Boil

Join GNOFHAC for our 6th Annual Community Crawfish Boil on April 25th from 5:30-7:30pm. The event is free and open to the public.  

 

 

April 26th: Red Lines and Keep Out Signs: 300 Years of Discrimination, Divestment & Displacement In New Orleans

Join the GNOFHAC for a panel discussion on 300 years of segregation in New Orleans with Dr. Stacy Seicshnaydre, Associate Professor of Law at Tulane Law School, Dr. Robert Collins, Professor of Urban Studies and Public Policy at Dillard University, and Cashauna Hill, Executive Director at GNOFHAC. The panel will be moderated by Maxwell Ciardullo, Director of Policy and Communications at GNOFHAC. The panelists will discuss the findings of their new Data Center report, Rigging the Real Estate Market: Segregation, Inequality, and Disaster Risk, on April 26th from 6-8pm at Propeller Incubator, 4035 Washington Ave.

April 28th: Fair Housing Five and the Haunted House Story Time

Join GNOFHAC staff for a story time reading of our children’s book, Fair Housing Five and the Haunted House, at the Algiers Regional Library on Saturday, April 28th at 2:30pm. The story time is intended for ages 5 and up.

 

 

 

 

April 30th: Fair Housing 101 for Small Landlords

GNOFHAC is conducting a free fair housing training for small landlords on April 30th at Christ Church Cathedral Episcopal at 2919 St. Charles Ave. from 6-7:30pm. The presentation will include case studies and best practices tailored to the needs and experiences of small landlords.There is no cost to attend, but participants must register here.

Fair housing advocates fight discriminatory advertisements

Posted on 27. Mar, 2018 by

GNOFHAC saw this illegal housing advertisement earlier this month in New Orleans.

We can all understand the importance of fair and equal access to housing. People of all backgrounds and identities should feel welcome during all stages of searching for a home, from housing advertising to move-in day. Unfortunately, landlords sometimes publish housing ads that show or imply a preference for a certain type of renter. Ads like that are not only isolating and hurtful, they are also against the law.

Landlords and realtors can break the law with phrases like “no kids,” “no rap music,” “adult living,” or “English only.” They can also break the law by intentionally marketing to prospective renters based on something about them, like their race. Earlier this month, GNOFHAC staff noticed that Parkway Apartments in New Orleans had posted illegal, racially discriminatory print and online advertising that depicted all future tenants as white. The company chose to do the right thing and fix the ads, but GNOFHAC will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that everyone who would like to live in those homes has fair access.

Facebook has also recently come under scrutiny for its role in enabling landlords to exclude families with children, women, and other groups from seeing housing ads. The National Fair Housing Alliance, along with three other fair housing organizations, filed a lawsuit against Facebook today claiming that the way they use personal data to help advertisers target specific groups and audiences violates the Fair Housing Act.

Advertising discrimination has serious consequences for people’s lives and their ability to choose what is best for their families. Everyone deserves to be able to choose a home based on their family’s needs, not someone else’s algorithm or stereotypes. If you believe you have seen discriminatory housing advertising please call GNOFHAC at (877) 445-2100.

 

An attack on New Orleans affordability

Posted on 21. Mar, 2018 by

Our food, music, and architecture make New Orleans unlike any other place on earth and we would defend it against anyone. Now, state legislators and lobbying groups from outside of New Orleans are trying to squash efforts to keep the city affordable for the musicians, culture bearers, and hospitality workers who make New Orleans special. Please take a moment and ask Mayor Landrieu and Mayor-elect Cantrell to stand strong for a city where we can all afford to stay.

Last November, voters in New Orleans were very clear that they wanted elected officials who would keep New Orleans affordable for New Orleanians. One of the key tools the Mayor and City Council have available is the Smart Housing Mix policy, which would ensure a percentage of new units are affordable for the average worker.

For the second year in a row, the real estate developer lobby and Jefferson Parish legislators are trying to ban policies like the Smart Housing Mix. Their bill, SB 462, would strip important zoning power from local governments, sabotaging attempts to keep New Orleans affordable.

Our Mayor and Mayor-elect have both advocated for more housing that is affordable and we need them to stand up against these attempts to control New Orleans. Join us in asking them to defend New Orleanians’ ability to stay and thrive in our great city.

50 Years Since the Dire Warnings of the Kerner Commission

Posted on 19. Mar, 2018 by

The most often quoted warning from the Kerner Commission report is that “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white–separate and unequal.”  The 1968 Kerner Commission analyzed the causes of riots that occurred across the country between 1965 and 1968. The 11-person Commission, formally known as the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, was established by President Lyndon B. Johnson and headed by then-Governor of Illinois, Otto Kerner. Last month marked the 50th anniversary of the report’s release, and prompted many to reflect on the Commission, its results, and our progress (or lack there of) 50 years later.

During the turbulent Civil Rights era, African Americans in urban centers across the country rose up against a century of post-Civil War systemic racial discrimination. Hundreds of people died or were injured in the more than 150 riots and disorders. Detroit, for example, had one of the largest riots with 43 people killed and over a thousand injured. Nationwide, most casualties were black.

The commission found that the underlying reason for such racial tensions and public disorders was primarily white racism. In other words, as Assistant General Counsel Nathaniel R. Jones described: “the report stated that white society created it, perpetuates it, and sustains it.”

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was finally signed into law after years of demands from the Civil Rights Movement, in part in response to the dire warnings from the Kerner Commission. The Fair Housing Act was a landmark achievement, intended not only to end housing discrimination but also to remedy the damage caused by generations of segregation and discriminatory housing policies. The Fair Housing Act, however, has never been adequately enforced, and segregation and discrimination remain deeply entrenched in communities across the country.

The last surviving member of the original Kerner Commission, Fred Harris, highlights this lack of progress in the recently released “Healing Our Divided Society: Investing in America Fifty Years After the Kerner Report”. The report describes how a lack of court oversight undermined desegregation programs, as black and Latino families frequently continued to be locked out of neighborhoods of opportunity. What gains were achieved have also proved difficult to maintain: the report notes that 44 percent of black students in 1988 attended majority-white schools, while only 20 percent do so today. Further, the black homeownership rate falls startlingly short of the white rate, at roughly 40 and 70 percents, respectively. These rates remain relatively unchanged since that of the 1960s. Black homeowners remain few in number relative to white ones, and those who do own property are typically concentrated into lower-income urban areas.

Most people agree that factors like race, religion, or gender should not limit a person’s potential for success. However, the reality is that systemic oppression and discrimination exist. In order to combat such severe disparities in access to opportunity, it is of the utmost importance for policymakers to listen to the needs of their constituents and take action now.

 

Still no guarantee of safe, healthy homes for Louisiana’s renters

Posted on 15. Mar, 2018 by

Yesterday, GNOFHAC learned of a Gretna mother whose ceiling collapsed on her young son. He suffered an injury to his arm and now she’s worried about his safety as well as that of her two other children. The apartment not only has issues with the ceiling, but there are significant leaks and mold as well.  You can see more about this story here

Your home is where you’re supposed to feel safe. It’s where you can relax after a long day, where your children play and do their homework, and where you make memories with your family.

Local and state politicians have failed to protect families who rent from leaks, mold, rats, and even collapsed ceilings. Louisiana is a free-for-all for landlords with few rules and no enforcement. GNOFHC receive calls every week from renters looking for help. Often, families who rent put themselves at risk for eviction when they ask for a repair.

Families who rent deserve safe and healthy homes, and our city leaders need to do more to ensure that before a landlord rents a property, they should have to show that it’s the kind of place they’d be willing to live.

Until then, document all of your conversations with your landlord or property manager – ideally using email or text rather than phone calls – and call GNOFHAC at (504) 596-2100 or our partner Southeast Louisiana Legal Services at (504) 529-1000 to learn more about your rights.

Mixing It Up: Fair Housing and the Smart Housing Mix Policy

Posted on 26. Feb, 2018 by

New Orleans is a city like no other in terms of its rich history and cultural individuality. Unfortunately, when it comes to ballooning housing costs, New Orleans falls in line with many other cities in America. As rents rise, the workers who make New Orleans what it is—such as musicians and those in the hospitality and tourism industries—are being forced to the periphery, resulting in fewer employment options, longer commutes, wasted resources, and increased traffic and parking congestion.

The Smart Housing Mix policy seeks to expand affordable housing in developing neighborhoods such as the CBD, Treme, and Mid-City by ensuring a percentage of new units are affordable for the average worker while also providing developers with incentives to build those units. For example, density bonuses would allow developers to build more units based on how many of those units are affordable—benefitting both those workers who are seeking housing and the developers who can then increase their rent revenues. Other incentives may include reductions in parking requirements, expedited permitting, and tax abatements. Units would not just be affordable at the time of move-in, but would remain that way for a minimum of fifty subsequent years.

A 2017 study by the New Orleans City Planning Commission suggested improvements to the policy, such as increasing the area of the city where the policy would apply (counting on developers to voluntarily “opt in” has proven to have disappointing results). The report also recommended increasing incentives so that developers are more likely to allocate units for tenants whose income is 60% or below the neighborhood’s area median income (AMI).

Inclusionary housing policies similar to the proposed New Orleans Smart Housing Mix have been successful in cities across the country, from Fairfax County, Virginia to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In Breckenridge, Colorado—a ski resort community whose economy relies heavily on tourism—the high demand for luxury homes made it difficult in the past for low-wage workers to be able to afford rent. In the late 90s, however, a “Workforce Housing” program analogous to the Smart Housing Mix policy was instituted, and today almost a third of Breckinridge’s permanent residents live in these affordable housing units. As a city with a thriving tourism industry, New Orleans would benefit from a similar model.

The 2017 study produced by the City Planning Commission is a step in the right direction for the New Orleans Smart Housing Mix Policy, but in order for Smart Housing to come to fruition, the New Orleans City Council must pass an ordinance turning the idea into a reality.

If you believe affordable housing is important, now is the time to contact your city councilperson and tell them that you support the implementation of a Smart Housing Mix Policy in New Orleans.

Open Neighborhoods Project

Posted on 23. Feb, 2018 by

New Orleans is facing a growing affordability crisis. In a city where wages remain stagnant while rent prices continue to increase, 57% of renters spend at least a third of their income on rent and 31% of renters spend more than half.

The affordability crisis is pushing out the people who make the city special, including our musicians, seniors, and hospitality workers.

If you are a landlord or housing provider committed to preserving the New Orleans we love, join GNOFHAC and the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) to learn more about opportunities to address this growing crisis, and meet fellow landlords committed to keeping New Orleans open to all.

GNOFHAC and HANO will be discussing the Housing Choice Voucher Program and we want to hear your advice on what can make the program work better for landlords. 

There is no commitment required, but please fill out this form if you are interested, and we will get back to you with more information.

Recommended Reading

Posted on 29. Jan, 2018 by

In honor of January being National Book Month, here is a recommended reading list from GNOFHAC staff: 
 

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
by Richard Rothstein

Rothstein details the many ways that housing segregation in communities across the United States was created and enforced by government action. The impacts of local, state and federal government policies, like racially explicit zoning laws and homeownership and underwriting policies that subsidized white flight and suburbanization while locking families of color out, continue to be seen in persistent patterns of segregation and the enormous wealth gap between white and black families. It’s essential to understand this often invisible history in order to envision what real housing justice might look like in our communities.

 – Renee Corrigan, Director of Education & Outreach

 

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City 
by Matthew Desmond

Harvard sociologist, Matthew Desmond, tells the story of eight families struggling to secure housing in the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee. Desmond brilliantly conveys the hardships and struggle of these individuals and families to simply find a decent place to live. He dismantles the popular misconception that evictions are the result of poverty, and instead shows how they are more often the cause of it.

And if you needed another reason to pick up Evicted, President Obama included it as one of the best books he read in 2017.

 – Erica Rawles, Community Engagement Coordinator

 

Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America
by Beryl Satter

The author writes about her father, Mark J. Satter, an apartment building owner in Chicago in the ’50s. It describes how and why the once Jewish community changed to African-American, by looking at issues of debt peonage, blockbusting, segregation, and discriminatory practices at local and federal levels, and showing how each exploited the African-American community in its own unique and unscrupulous ways.

 – Michelle Morgan, Coordinator of Investigations

 

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement
by Angela Davis

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle attests to Angela Davis’ ability to stay current and foundational in the fight for human rights. Davis stays topical as she connects movements on a global and local scale in various talks around the world. Her ability to stay up to date and keep moving seamlessly through intergenerational human rights struggles makes the book an inspiring read. All in all, this book is a reminder of the importance of the work we all do.

 – Raven Crane, Intake Specialist

 

How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood
by Peter Moskowitz

How to Kill a City is on my reading list for 2018. It’s an important read because it connects the visible and visceral effects of gentrification, like rise in rent and the displacement of people, with intentional policy and economic decisions that are not written in the interest of the people they affect. 

 – Sophie Dulberg, Investigations Fellow

 

 

 

Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law
by Dean Spade

Normal Life is not only a great read, but it’s also the gateway to lots of other great books written by Black and Indigenous Feminist, Trans, and Queer writers, who Spade admits are important and informative to the work he does. This book has urgency, criticism, and reiterates the need to work both inside institutions and outside to dismantle transphobia, racism, sexism, and various other forms of institutional violence.

 – Raven Crane, Intake Specialist

 

Righteous Lives: Narratives of the New Orleans Civil Rights Movement
by Kim Lacy Rogers

Righteous Lives explores the New Orleans Civil Rights Movement through the accounts of 25 activists, in their own words. It records the history of three generations of Civil Rights leaders and is one of the more thorough tellings of the civil rights struggle in New Orleans.

 – Maxwell Ciardullo, Director of Policy & Communications 

 

 

Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It
by Mindy Thompson Fullilove 

Root Shock is the book that made realize that if I cared about public health, I needed to be an urban planner. It uses poignant, first-person interviews and deep public health research to track the disproportionate displacement of African American neighborhoods through the highway building and urban renewal policies of the 1950s-70s. Fullilove catalogues the psychological trauma caused to communities that were uprooted from homes, jobs, extended families, and support networks and makes a compelling case for how we avoid future policies of displacement. 
 
 – Maxwell Ciardullo, Director of Policy & Communications

 

The Warmth of Other Suns
by Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns is a history of the great migration. It examines the experience of individuals who lived in the Jim Crow South and left, and what they found on the other side. Amongst many other issues, the book explores the causes and effects of residential segregation in northern cities and explains a lot about our modern day human geography, both nationwide and at the city level. 

 – Brad Hellman, Director of Homeownership Protection