WWNO skyline header graphic
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Local Newscast
Hear the latest from the WWNO/WRKF Newsroom.

Amid affordable housing crisis, a new complex is coming to New Orleans — with onsite healthcare

H3C groundbreaking ceremony on March 16, 2022.
Carly Berlin
The H3C groundbreaking ceremony on March 16, 2022.

Today, it’s a torn-up lot on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard in Central City, the former site of the Brown’s Dairy parking lot. But soon, it will become an affordable housing complex intended to provide accessible healthcare.

At a groundbreaking event on Wednesday, project leaders and supporters celebrated the $80 million development, called H3C, which stands for “culture, commerce and community.”

The development will have 192 rental units, about half of which will be reserved for seniors ages 55 and up. And it will boast something unusual for an affordable housing complex: a wraparound health clinic onsite, run by DePaul Community Health Centers.

The Gulf Coast Housing Partnership (GCHP), one of the lead developers on the project — along with Alembic Community Development — has worked with local healthcare providers like Odyssey House and Crescent Care in the past. But this is the first time a project of theirs will have a built-in clinic. Along with a similar development in Jackson, Mississippi, the goal is to show health insurers that onsite, accessible care improves health outcomes at a lower cost — and that insurers should put money toward affordable housing. Insurance company Aetna is one of the major funders of the project.

“We hope that the insurers are more likely to invest in affordable housing because they know in the long run that it’s cost effective for their own business models,” said Kathy Laborde, GCHP President and CEO.

A brass band plays at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new affordable housing and healthcare complex in Central City.
Carly Berlin
A brass band plays at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new affordable housing and healthcare complex in Central City.

Along with many cities nationwide, New Orleans is facing an increasing affordable housing crisis.

Over the last five years, fair market rent in the metro area — the annual estimated amount a two-bedroom unit typically rents for, including utilities — has increased by about 13%, from $964 in 2017 to $1,089 in 2022.

The majority of New Orleans households rent, and many are stretched thin. According to a 2018 analysis by the Data Center, 36% of renters in Orleans Parish were severely cost-burdened, meaning they were paying more than half of their pre-tax household income on rent and utilities.

HousingNOLA, an affordable housing advocacy group, estimated last month that New Orleans needs $37 billion to end the city’s affordable housing crisis.

Andreanecia Morris, executive director of HousingNOLA, said GCHP is a partner of the group and that H3C is a step in the right direction: developments like it create new, affordable units that can retain residents in the neighborhood or even attract people who have been displaced from the city.

“Who we need to build for are the people we have pushed out of New Orleans,” Morris said.

But more investments and regulations are needed, especially around existing, vacant housing, which she said is often overpriced.

Affordable housing is a stated priority of Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration. The city put $5.4 million toward H3C, “leveraged through state and federal dollars,” according to a press release.

But Morris hasn’t been pleased with the administration’s overall track record on housing, pointing in particular to the loss of the city’s Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund, which voters failed to renew during the December election.

Morris said the administration could have done more to champion the fund, which can be put toward affordable housing development.

H3C has been in the works for three years, and apartments are slated to be available for move-in summer of 2023, Laborde said. 

The one-, two- and three-bedroom rental units will be affordable at 60% of New Orleans’ Area Median Income. That means a household making 60% of the city’s AMI – which is about $42,000, as of 2019 – can live there without spending more than a third of their income on housing costs.

The project received funding from a variety of public and private sources, including Aetna and CVS Health, AMCREF Community Capital, Belle Reve, Finance New Orleans, Home Bank, Housing Authority of New Orleans, Louisiana Housing Corporation, Louisiana Office of Community Development, New Orleans Office of Community Development, R4 Capital Funding and US Bank.

Carly Berlin is the New Orleans Reporter for WWNO and WRKF. She focuses on housing, transportation, and city government. Previously, she was the Gulf Coast Correspondent for Southerly, where her work focused on disaster recovery across south Louisiana during two record-breaking hurricane seasons. Much of that reporting centered on the aftermath of Hurricanes Laura and Delta in Lake Charles, and was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center.

👋 Looks like you could use more news. Sign up for our newsletters.

* indicates required
New Orleans Public Radio News
New Orleans Public Radio Info