Spotlight: Housing for Formerly Homeless in New Orleans’ Historic Neighborhoods

A finalist for the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence, the Iberville Offsite Rehabs are 46 historic homes rehabilitated for formerly homeless women and children in New Orleans' Seventh Ward and Treme neighborhoods.

Iberville Offsite Rehabs in New Orleans includes 46 units of affordable historic homes.
Courtesy Kronberg Wall Architects

After visiting La Kretz Innovation Campus in Los Angeles, our Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence (RBA) team flew to New Orleans to visit Iberville Offsite Rehabs I & II, the rehabilitation of 46 scattered site historic homes for formerly homeless women and children. Located just north of the French Quarter, in the socio-economically diverse neighborhoods of the Seventh Ward and Treme, the project’s one- and two-family structures offer an effective approach to urban infill in the face of a severe affordable housing shortage.

Despite substantial public investment in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, finding dignified, affordable living quarters for many New Orleans residents remains a challenge. Twenty-eight percent lives in poverty, and thirty-six percent is considered “rent burdened”—these residents pay fifty percent or more of their monthly income on rent and utilities. This is particularly true in the city’s close-in, historic neighborhoods, such as Treme, where high renovation costs and out-of-town investors have made affordable housing elusive for existing residents.

Redmellon Restoration and Development, a small New Orleans mission-based for-profit developer, created the Iberville Offsite Rehabs to maintain diversity and stem displacement in these rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. Keen to broaden the appeal and relevance of historic preservation beyond its traditional constituency (the affluent), the company sensitively rehabilitated vacant Creole cottages, shotgun houses, and bungalows, preserving their character while providing modern amenities and sustainable features.

Designed by Kronberg Wall Architects of Atlanta, the homes incorporate original design details such as decorative wood brackets and moldings alongside new solar panels, tankless water heaters, and energy efficient heating and cooling systems. The renovations meet the exacting guidelines of the National Park Service Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation for historic tax credits as well as the Enterprise Green Community Criteria.

Formerly blighted and deteriorating historic houses have been transformed into affordable homes. Courtesy Jeff Johnston

Solar panels and other energy saving appliances and heating and cooling systems reduce utility bills. Courtesy Jeff Johnston

Iberville Offsite Rehabs is part of the broader U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development Choice Neighborhoods Redevelopment Plan. The scattered site infill complements large scale redevelopments nearby, such as the Lafitte and Iberville public housing complexes, as well as the development of new mixed-income communities and investments in public infrastructure in existing communities. Additionally, construction is now underway on 30 additional homes in the Iberville Offsite Rehabs Phase III, sparking additional private investment in the community.

Completed in 2014, the $12.1 million Iberville Offsite project was developed in partnership with the City of New Orleans, Enterprise Community Partners, Housing Authority of New Orleans(HANO), New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA), and New Orleans Women’s and Children’s Shelter. HANO rental subsidies allow residents to pay as little as $0 to $360 per month, depending on their household incomes. Long-term affordability is guaranteed via a 35-year legal restriction on the properties that limits occupancy to low-income occupants.

Brenda Breaux, executive director of NORA, says the initiative illustrates the value of effective infill development, accomplished by “stitching the urban fabric back together to create occupancy where vacant housing once stood and leveraging our agency’s limited resources with a larger pool of public and private resources to accomplish sensitive neighborhood restoration.”

Next our RBA team heads to Bethlehem, PA, to visit SteelStacks Arts and Cultural Campus, the transformation of an abandoned steel plant into a mixed-use cultural and entertainment district.

Anne-Marie Lubenau, FAIA, is director of the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence (RBA) for the Bruner Foundation in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An architect and advocate for educating and engaging people in design of the built environment, she is passionate about increasing understanding about the connection between good design and planning and equitable and sustainable communities.

This post is part of a series written and curated by RBA that focuses on advancing conversation about placemaking in American cities. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, RBA is a biennial design award recognizing transformative places that contribute to the economic, environmental, and social vitality of the nation’s urban centers.

Categories: Housing, Preservation

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