New Orleans residents, landlords helped through city’s rental assistance program

Julie Winn is a local costume designer for the New Orleans Opera — an organization that went without show productions for the last year due to the pandemic. The lack of wages made it harder for her to pay rent, but she’s thankful to have a landlord who understood her situation.

“I’ve been just picking up on little things here and there,” says Winn. “Working at my friend’s shop. And I lucked out because I have a really wonderful landlord.”

Property owners are not exempt from a lot of the monthly costs for their buildings. Winn’s landlord Pamela Russell currently has five properties in Central City, and many of her tenants struggled to pay the bills in the last year.

“I can’t put off the things that need to be done,” says Russell. “I haven’t had the cash flow, but I’ve been able to keep the tenants.”

Aside from the federal moratorium being extended, the City of New Orleans’ rental assistance program has been stepping in to keep some property owners afloat. Started in April of 2020, the program recently received an additional $14 million in funds from the state. Officials say with the collaborative work from Southeast Louisiana Legal Service and the Courts, they prevented 59 evictions in the last 30 days. Most of those tenants had expired leases — something not protected under the federal moratorium.

Housing advocates applaud the city for its efforts, but add that more needs to be done for housing security. In their newest housing study, they found the affordable housing supply in Louisiana is less than half of what is needed.

“The ultimate analysis is going to be on how we handled COVID,” says HousingNOLA Director Andreanecia Morris. “How many people are better off after this? How well we have set them on a better path? That’s the true test.”

Marjorianna Willman, the City’s Housing Policy and Community Development Director, tells WDSU those issues are being worked on in Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office. Working on housing stability, workforce development and working wages are some of the plans being constructed for the future.

If you’re in need of rental assistance, apply here on this website or in person at 1340 Poydras Street.

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