NEW ORLEANS, La. — There is hardly a street corner in New Orleans’ French Quarter that isn’t filled with music. It’s the sound of musicians pounding away at five-gallon buckets and blasting high-notes through trumpets that keeps the pulse of the city beating.
Vance Vaucresson didn’t know how long the silence would last when the music stopped back in 2005.
“It really turned your life up around and we have people that, once they left, a lot of them didn’t come back,” said Vaucresson.
For more than 100 years, Vaucresson’s family has lived and worked in the city’s seventh ward. Vaucresson’s Sausage Company was a beloved neighborhood landmark that had stood proudly for three generations, before Katrina swept through.
The business has not reopened 16 years later.
The floodwater receded eventually. However, a flood of another kind inundated the city. Federal aid in the hundreds of millions was poured into rebuilding affordable housing.
Vaucresson said, “What we gained was universal interest in rebuilding a city.”
However, affordable housing in New Orleans as well as across the country is subject to an expiration date.
Incentives are given to developers to build affordable homes or apartments for low-income people. This is the way that most affordable housing in this country works. Most cases, however, these incentives expire within 10 to 15 years. Developers are allowed to rent their properties at the market rate. A family might pay $300 per month for a unit, but the rent will skyrocket to $1,300 the next day.
Julius Kimbrough, Crescent City Community Land Trust, is working to address this issue. This land trust uses a mixture of public funding and private financing to build affordable housing units throughout New Orleans.
“It really shows that many people do not have any resources beyond just living paycheck-to-paycheck,” he stated.
There are many community land trusts around the country that work to solve the affordable housing problem. A lot of families will buy a house on land belonging to the community trust. The homeowner or tenant will only be occupying the property and is not buying the land. This makes the purchase prices more affordable.
There are currently 255 community land trusts across the country trying to do the exact same thing. This concept has resulted in 35,000 affordable housing units across the country.
Cashauna Hill, Louisiana Fair Housing, sees the whole idea as a smarter approach to continuing to rebuild New Orleans.
“We have to be able to ensure long terms of affordability so we’re not giving away public subsidies only to see families kicked out and affordable homes turned into luxury apartments after 15 years,” Hill said.
Vaucresson has finally been able to reopen the family business after Hurricane Katrina.
Vaucresson, as part of his partnership to the Crescent City Community Land Trust was granted the financing necessary for his family’s rebuilding of the restaurant. He was required to build two apartments for low-income residents higher up.
These units will remain affordable housing as long as the building is standing.
“We made a promise to the community that we will always have, even if it’s just two apartments, it will be permanently affordable in perpetuity,” the 52-year-old said.
While two apartments may seem small, they will make a huge difference in a city with rents rising as high as 50% over the past 15-years.
Vaucresson hopes that the music will be popular in a city known for its musical talent.
“We want to make sure when we reinvest that says we’re not going anywhere.”