Edwards vetoes block of ‘Inclusionary Zoning’

Edwards

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana’s Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have prohibited local governments from passing zoning ordinances requiring builders to include low-income housing in some residential developments.

Edwards’ Tuesday veto message, issued in Baton Rouge, said so-called ‘inclusionary zoning’ ordinances have been used around the country to increase affordable housing. He said the bill could jeopardize federal funding for affordable housing programs.

The measure by Sen. Danny Martiny, a Republican from the New Orleans suburb of Kenner, would have struck from current law the words “inclusionary zoning” and replaced it with language allowing cities and parishes to approve “voluntary economic incentive polices” to increase affordable housing.

Edwards’ veto message also posed a challenge to local governments throughout the state. He said no city or parish has pursued an inclusionary zoning policy so far.

“If local governments in Louisiana do not actively pursue these policies over the course of the next year, I will conclude that it is not their will to utilize these strategies and I will be inclined to sign a similar piece of legislation in the 2019 regular session,” Edwards said.

Backers of Martiny’s bill included the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans. The group’s CEO testified in committee that mandating affordable housing could have the unintended consequence of driving away developers.

“Should mandatory zoning proliferate, it’s going to shut down a lot of development because the historical facts show they yield very few units and a lot of developers will start to avoid those areas,” Jon Luther testified during an April hearing covered by NOLA.com|The Times-Picayune .

However, Edwards’ veto was met with praise by officials in New Orleans, where new Mayor LaToya Cantrell and members of the City Council campaigned on the need for affordable housing.

“Mayor Cantrell made a formal request that Governor Edwards veto this bill, and she is grateful that he did so,” her spokesman, Beau Tidwell, said in an emailed statement. “We are facing an affordable housing crisis in New Orleans, and our leaders and lawmakers need to have every tool in the toolkit available to fight that battle.”

Tax incentives are sometimes used to encourage developers to include housing for low- and moderate-income residents, but advocates of inclusionary zoning say other options are needed.

City Council president Jason Williams said he was grateful for the veto. “We must use all the tools at our disposal to continue to address the housing crisis and I intend for this City Council to move forward in exploration of an inclusionary zoning policy,” his emailed statement said.

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