New Year with Our Newest Member

By Suzanne Gunther, NACEDA Communications Director

Andreanecia Morris, HousingNOLAI had the pleasure of talking with Andreanecia Morris, Executive Director of HousingNOLA and Chair of HousingLOUISIANA. HousingNOLA is a public private partnership established by the Foundation for Louisiana, the New Orleans Office of Community Development, and the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance to implement a 10-year plan for ending housing insecurity for all New Orleans by 2025. HousingNOLA fosters community empowerment within New Orleans neighborhoods and manages a collaboration of government entities, nonprofits, business owners, advocates, and community leaders. 

A statewide network of regional housing alliances, HousingLOUISIANA is NACEDA's newest member. It serves as the primary advocacy partner for securing a dedicated funding stream for the state's housing trust fund and sets a statewide housing agenda prior to each legislative session. HousingLOUISIANA also provides support to regional organizers, connecting them to national organizations and technical assistance around policy.

What inspired you in 2018?

We have a community leader who has built the smallest legal house in the City of New Orleans. He has become a real champion for small, affordable homes, helping us secure partnerships with churches that are interested in helping to duplicate his model.

We have another community leader working with us who was formerly incarcerated. She and her husband are really struggling. They have made some really hard decisions about what they need to do in order to survive. But despite all of their financial challenges, she shows up to support our efforts and make sure that what we’re working on will really benefit people like her, not just make policy for the sake of policy.

I think about these two individuals when my work is difficult and challenging. It’s easy to get caught up in the strategy and maneuvering. I try to stay focused on real people and the real end result – sustainable, safe, and affordable homes for all. (Photo: Tiny house advocate Michael Burnside with local artist Kip and Councilmember at Large Jason Williams.)

Do you have a favorite memory for 2018?

HousingNOLA Put Housing First MarchHundreds of people showed up for our Put Housing First March. These were regular folks, not just nonprofit leaders. It was so encouraging to see people come out, get really excited and energized, and commit to fighting and to solving the affordable housing crisis in New Orleans. Some have become rock-solid supporters who show up time and time again. We’re not just making a point, we’re making a difference.

Another highlight was when Congressman Cedric Richmond, who represents the Second District of Louisiana where New Orleans is located, introduced the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act. It’s a companion bill in the House to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s bill. Regardless of where the bill goes, we’re finally going to have a real conversation in this country about affordable housing. I’m excited to take part in the conversation. (Photo: 2018 Put Housing First March)

What are you excited about in 2019?

I’m optimistic about what we can accomplish in 2019. We’re going to pass our Smart Housing Mix, which is New Orleans’ version of mandatory inclusionary zoning. That’s going to be one of my favorite memories. We’re going to re-organize and reauthorize our short-term rental laws so we can align resources to create affordable housing opportunities for hundreds if not thousands of people. We’re going to get mortgage recordation changes in the state legislature so people don’t lose their home because they don’t have the resources to fight improper foreclosures.

We’re going to finally secure resources to help those who are providing housing for people with special needs, including the formerly-incarcerated and people with mental illnesses. We’re going to change the policies for foster care youth to ensure they are supported into with a solid foundation into adulthood. With gubernatorial and other statewide elections coming up, we will have some real robust discussions across the state about how the Louisiana Housing Corporation can invest resources appropriately and equitably.

What is your New Year's wish for your organization?

Put Housing First March - Morris, Patterson, DuplessisThat we put housing first. When all of our elected officials make decisions, they must weigh the needs of the people of New Orleans and make decisions that will stabilize this community and the people who make it special. In New Orleans, the affordable housing crisis has worsened because we’ve failed to enact the right policies and dedicate the right resources. This crisis isn’t like any other, because we have the things we need to solve it in New Orleans. Our situation is not as complicated and constricted as in sother cities. This is a city with a 20% vacancy rate and there’s plenty of room for everyone who wants to live here. But it’s not affordable to most. There are things we can do and must do about that. It simply requires the will.

My wish is that all the passion and all the fever that was brought to bear to save the city after Hurricane Katrina is brought to bear to solve our affordable housing crisis. After Hurricane Katrina, we got assistance from national partners at every level, but it was the people of this city who saved it. The people of this city can and must do that again.

For HousingLOUISIANA, my wish is that we finally get dedicated funding sources for the Louisiana Housing Trust Fund. (Photo: Morris with local artist Sunni Patterson and State Representative Royce Duplessis)

What is your New Year's wish for NACEDA?

My wish is for NACEDA to be able to provide support and connections for members so we all can accomplish our goals. Collective power is truly what we need in order to implement our visions. We need help in New Orleans from national partners to create sustainable, safe, affordable housing. NACEDA is one of those great national partners that we hope will help us do that in 2019.

What is your New Year's wish for the country?

My New Year’s wish is that we as a nation recognize and acknowledge the poison that is killing us – the systemic racism that is wrapped around almost every decision we make. Racism is keeping the 99% from realizing their lives are not as stable and secure as they should be. I see people gleefully acting against their own self-interest. They point to others and marginalize them and say, “they’re the reason my life is so hard.” They want to feel they’re better than others. I wish critical thinking would catch like a cold or be as common as allergies. We need policies to lift people up, not push people down.