Andreanecia Morris

CEO, HousingNOLA

Fighting for affordable housing at a time of critical need

The affordable housing crisis in New Orleans has hit critical mass, and Andreanecia Morris, CEO of HousingNOLA, is widely recognized as the point person when it comes to trying to solve it.

The problem has been building for many years, but “COVID-19 really emphasized it. You can’t shelter at home if you don’t have a home,” Morris pointed out.

Morris has been involved with this issue since her first job out of college, when she worked in the communications department at the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO). “I felt a real responsibility to know what I was talking about,” she recalled, so she constantly questioned other staff, managers and housing residents.

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“That’s when I learned how broken the system was. I couldn’t fathom how we had done this to our fellow citizens.”

After Hurricane Katrina, she went to work for a nonprofit housing developer, but frustrated by what she felt was a lack of progress, she helped start HousingNOLA in 2014. The organization is dedicated to creating an overarching plan to address the affordable housing crisis.

“Housing is the foundation for addressing issues like crime, healthcare and education,” she said. “You name a reform, and I can show you how the failure to include housing has undercut it.”

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HousingNOLA seeks to bring affordable housing to the forefront through continuing education efforts, advocacy and developing new policies. Several key policy proposals are now in the pilot project stage, especially in response to COVID-19.

One example is a rental assistance program for newly unemployed workers, which HousingNOLA launched with significant national funder support as a potential model for nationwide replication. Even more innovative has been Morris’ work to place homeless families and current renters with Section 8 housing vouchers in short-term rental properties that are not being occupied because of the tourism slowdown.

“We’ve found that with the right support, this concept is working,” she said, adding that, “Some of these STRs will probably go back to being regular rentals permanently.

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“We started saying ‘Put Housing First’ years ago, but COVID-19 shows we still have a long way to go,” said Morris. “Next year, we will be refocusing on the communications piece, because we still have to overcome ongoing resistance to affordable housing. We are also going to launch a citizen planning process for affordable housing. This is a citywide problem and we need residents, businesses and government to come together to solve it.”

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