Louisiana needs affordable housing for both renters and homeowners in order to recover fully and fairly from the devastation and displacement of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Even before the storms, decent affordable housing was in short supply and many low-income families and individuals faced housing hardship. But the hurricanes-and the flooding that followed-left the state with a severe housing shortage. In the greater New Orleans region, for example, almost half the housing stock was damaged or destroyed. So far, rebuilding has been slow and the prospects for the future are uncertain.
Although everyone who was displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita faces significant housing challenges, the needs of low- and moderate-income renters warrant far more attention than they have thus far received. Louisiana's current housing policies focus primarily on the needs of homeowners or on the production of rental housing through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. But most lower-income households (especially those from the greater New Orleans region) are renters, and they cannot wait for all the new LIHTC units to come on line. Thus, communities across Louisiana need additional tools for assisting lower income renters. Without affordable rental options, many original residents will not be able to return to their communities, lower income households will face the greatest uncertainty and hardship, and the region's economic recovery is likely to be undermined by the lack of critical workers.