Thursday, May 15, 2008


Funny, yesterday I was complaining that my forays into the apartment hunting process have been frustrating because of high rents. This morning, the Louisiana Rebuilds Minute, featuring Chris Reeve of the website, told us all about an exciting new study that explains how our rents are now stable.

What? Does this mean I might be able to afford a place to live?

I know Chris Reeve only had a minute, but the lack of information he provided about that report's context mislead me, the average listener.

Are our rents really stabilizing?

Well, I read the report about the report in the Times Picayune:

The survey focused only on large apartment communities, not on the doubles common in the historic heart of the city. While rents in such buildings have reached equilibrium, Schedler says many tenants still have to compromise about the neighborhood they live in or the number of amenities they can afford.

"The affordability is not there for some people," he said. "If the rent goes up and someone's salary hasn't gone up proportionally, the renter faces having to get a one-bedroom instead of a two-bedroom

Well, that says something entirely different about the interaction between cost of living and cost of housing. First of all, given that the majority of rental properties in New Orleans are single units and not large complexes, this survey does nothing to explain any stabilization. What I see with my eyes and I see with my ears is a rental market that places units out of reach of working people like myself. Chris Reeve urged me to read the full report by Larry G. Schedler and and Associates Inc., so I did.

The Greater New Orleans Apartment Market continued to recover and stabilize over the past six months. The market could generally be described as healthy. Sub-markets have seen normal increases and decreases in monthly rental rates and occupancy since our last report. Much of this activity is attributed to the steady release of refurbished apartments into the rental inventory and population growth. Leading the area in average monthly rent rates is A. the Historic Center; which had an average monthly rental rate of ($1,317) and an overall occupancy rate of (96%) which represents a 5% increase from our last survey. Survey participants attribute this to professionals returning to the city who find the area conducive to their lifestyle.

So what does that say?

Well, Larry G. Schedler's denotation 'A. the Historic Center' is actually all of East Bank New Orleans minus New Orleans East. That's apparently "professionals returning to the city who find the area conducive to their lifestyle." That's the historic center, all of Orleans Parish minus Algiers and the East. I know a lot of professionals in Orleans Parish, but to suggest that they even come close to comprising the relevant study group for renters in Orleans Parish is the type of unlimited bulky waste that even STD would refuse to pick up.

I was speaking to Oyster about rentals and he told me about a development he knew of on Carondelet uptown near Louisiana renting at $850 for an unfurnished single. If you're a responsible adult trying to live a decent life while building a savings account, you need to earn your month's rent on a week's salary. Let's do the math: $850 x 52 weeks = $44,200. How many service industry employees do you know that pull in that kind of salary? How many cops or teachers or fireman do you know that bring in that kind of salary? I'd dance a jig if that's what I made.

And the worst part is, these people charging $850 for a 1 bedroom aren't exploiting anybody. That's about the average price you're going to be able to find for a 1 bedroom apartment in Orleans Parish. In fact, Mr. Schedler's average studio price for the historic core is $817, his aver age for a one bedroom, one bath is a whopping $1,168! To afford that responsibly, you'd need to make $60,736! What if you have a family to provide for?

Chris Reeve, when you have another minute, maybe you could tell New Orleans listeners the story about the city's real affordable housing crisis.

Mr. Reeve has provided tons of helpful resources and information since the storm. Here is his rental assistance page. Today's LA rebuilds minute, however, gave the wrong impression about the current rent situation in the city.

Schedler's rental survey tells us little about the housing market in New Orleans. Perhaps it informs those looking to rent at the higher end of the income scale but obviously, that minority demographic has not experienced the same high rent headaches that continue to plague the vast majority of Orleans Parish renters.

Mr. Schedler, the affordability isn't there for a lot of people. I'd be happy to have my salary increase to reflect the higher cost of living here, but in the mean time I don't think most people are really having to sacrifice a two bedroom for a 1 bedroom - most people I know in the service industry are closer to having to sacrifice their cramped shared double for the backseat of their sedan or a tent under the overpass.


jeffrey said...

My building is up for sale this month. If the sale goes through, we're expecting the rent will likely double. It's weird to think that I may finally have to move out of this apartment I've been in for nearly a decade.... but... Jesus has it been that long? I really need to get out of that place. God I hate change.

E said...

Costs are just ridiculous Jeffrey, what with food and gas prices skyrocketing.

That this high rent issue isn't even on the radar of local politicians is crazy to me.

I mean it's not as if the poor African Americans that politicians typically shaft are the only people affected by high rents; we're all getting pummeled.

Now of course it's politically difficult to get rent controls in place, but why is every local politician that proposes an increase to the minimum wage simply greeted with laughter?

E said...

My Mayoral administration will make a three dollar per hour minimum wage increase an immediate priority.