The New Orleans City Council has approved sweeping revisions to the city's building codes that are designed to combat blight by setting minimum standards for all properties, including occupied housing.
The new rules, which give the city broader enforcement powers and the ability to impose stricter penalties on non-compliant homeowners, won't solve all of the problems with New Orleans' housing stock, but they are a "welcome first step toward amending the code to allow the administration more reasonable and effective tools to combat blight," said Councilwoman Stacy Head.
The six-month process to revise the code was praised by members of the public at last week's council meeting, but some raised concerns that the new ordinances go too far and will hurt the most vulnerable people.
Jon Luther, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans, pointed to a "neighboring parish" where similar measures are in place and vigorously enforced.
"Beauty and blight is sometimes in the eyes of the beholder," Luther said. "Very strict enforcement related to blight remediation is trapping a lot of innocents, catching folks who are low-income and elderly (and) whose homes aren't really blighted, they are just a little tired. If you have an inspector, it can be an arbitrary process."
The revisions passed by the council reinstate and strengthen the enforcement of occupied-building codes that were suspended after Hurricane Katrina to allow people to move back to New Orleans and live in their storm-damaged homes as they rebuilt.