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OneRouge Community Check-In: Week 193






Housing inequality and predatory lending under the guise of equity are nothing new. Pulitzer prize nominated and winning books have been written on the subject. It could be the decades of lived experience  that may just make this current economy feel like more a dire situation than years past. It could also be the reality of the affordable housing shortage. Either way, the homeownership gap in Baton Rouge (not unlike New Orleans) seems to be spreading.


Lack of affordable housing is an issue that affects all of South Louisiana. And the wealth divide is real. So is there more that could be done? Is structural racism at the root of the issue? What are there lessons that Baton Rouge should be learning?


Well, that is precisely the conversation we intend to have. Learn with us and our featured speakers as we engage in the discussion "Bet the House on Black".


 

Notes

Casey Phillips:  Speaking of Mardi Gras, all the people that are on this call, y'all survived congratulations. We are still here and and for all of you all of you that we hope that everybody had a really festive week as Alfredo pointed out in our cultural landscape, there was the super bowl Mardi Gras and Valentine's day. And that was quite a lot. It was quite a week. So we hope that some of those days resonated with you all and brought you some joy. So speaking of joy, one of our favorite things to do is stir the pot and Pepper. I feel like today is your day. So I want to immediately turn it back over to you. But welcome everybody to the space. 


Pepper Roussel: Every day is a good day to stir the pots. And what better way to stir pots than on a Fri yay? Fri yay! Actually, right? Gumbo is becoming not a thing so much anymore. But get to your fish fries, because this is the time where Catholic churches are making money. Anyway, I giggled because I'm a cradle Catholic. So there we are. Anyways, folks thank y'all for being here. You know how much I love you spending part of your Friday morning with us today. We are talking about housing, affordable housing. What does it look like? What does it mean? What can we learn? What should we have learned? God bless. And we've got some great speakers on this fun Friday morning. We'll start with our, with family only because he was here first and he's not only, but he's also wearing a One Rouge t shirt. We'll send you one, Kathy. Alfredo Cruz, please let us know not like we don't know you, but please let us know who you are, what you do, and how we should be involved in affordable housing. 


Alfredo Cruz: Great. Thanks. Hi everybody. I'm Alfredo Cruz and. I think most of you know me from my prior work in philanthropy where I've spent most of my professional career 25 years working both in national philanthropy at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and what brought me here to Louisiana 13 years ago was my work with Foundation for Louisiana where I was vice president of programs and special initiatives. And I started this practice Let's Fix It! when I left philanthropy in 2019 because, all that time working in philanthropy helped me understand these different approaches to solving systems level issues.  In a way that really centered people in humanity and centered people to solve problems they face in their own communities. And  My work with foundation for Louisiana helped me really sharpen my skills in doing so with a strong equity lens.  So my work with projects, mostly in state, local government and nonprofit organizations really focuses on a systems level approach to solving  problems at this intersection of housing, early childhood. 

And racial equity.  And I've had the privilege of working with a lot of really great folks  around the country and met people through national organizations like the National League of Cities. And I'm currently working on a couple of projects that I think are relevant to this conversation. And I wanted to mention one is in Wisconsin helping three state agencies, Department of Children and Families Department of Health and Department of Education align its systems and structures, its programs to better serve families with young children in Wisconsin. So it's creating a birth to five system to better serve families with young Children. So that families needing services at these three state agencies don't have to go through on multiple doors that  it's really exhausting and time consuming. And in Las Vegas working on a project to solve for the health conditions of people experiencing homelessness. A southern Nevada system of care that would help align and coordinate services for people experiencing homelessness to improve their health conditions. And it includes working with hospital systems and all the providers that are part of their continuum of care to align the way that and coordinate the way that they refer people for health services. And I wanted to mention those because the people most impacted by  the dysfunction of these systems are people living in poverty. And here in One Rouge, what we're trying to solve for is the systems level problems that perpetuate poverty. And I'm really pleased that Pepper, you've really arranged for this conversation at this juncture where we're about to enter into a campaign season for leadership. That really gives us an opportunity to question things that have been done and things that haven't been done to solve at the systems level for these issues that impact in particular families with young Children and where some of the solutions have to be about housing not necessarily about these other things that occur because people don't have safe housing that they can afford. 

And I also appreciated pepper that in preparation for this conversation, you reminded us of Matthew Desmond's book Evicted.  And I had an opportunity to work with the city of Milwaukee, and I'm very familiar with the eviction rates in Milwaukee. Very similar to those that we're facing here  in Baton Rouge and across the country. And one of The things I just wanted to lift up in closing is Desmond's book, the way he refers to it is, it's creating a portrait of the powerful ways in which the private housing sector is shaping the lives of Americans living in poverty in their communities. And we must solve for  that problem. 

So I'm looking forward to having this discussion. Thanks.


Pepper: Here, we do have to solve for, and it's not, I was saying it almost jokingly this morning. I could use affordable housing, and I'm not necessarily considered impoverished. Who doesn't want to be able to afford housing? I don't know, it just doesn't make a lot of sense to me. But, that said. We are going to shift to Kathy Laborde. Please let us know who you are, what you do, and how you are connected to the topic at hand. Your five minutes starts now. 


Kathy Laborde: Good morning, everybody, and thank you for listening in this morning. I am Kathy Laborde. I'm the president and CEO of Gulf Coast Housing Partnership. I'm also a mother and a grandmother. Okay, and I think that has certainly I'm telling you that because that has frankly driven me to do what I do. Okay. I've been in New Orleans for 30 years. And when I moved here, I did come with a real estate and finance background. But I also, driving around the city. I was like, this is not the way the people should have to live. And my goal was simply to show to my children, you don't have to accept this. Transcribed so long story short, 30 years later Katrina really is what resulted in my agreeing to run the Gulf Coast Housing Partnership to start it and run it. And we're affordable housing developers, and we also do commensurate commercial ventures. We don't lead with commercial. But we definitely follow. And quite frankly, they're typically either office or health care related in terms of the commercial side. We operate along the Gulf Coast. We're in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and in Houston, Texas. We have right now just under 130 employees. We do commercial res affordable housing. We do not do homeownership, quite frankly, folks, simply because for the income levels we're trying to serve, we simply cannot sell houses in volume. We cannot keep a company in business selling eight to ten houses a year. Doesn't work. That's my spiel, and I'm happy to know what you should know about what we do? The work is hard, but you all know that, and what can I tell you beyond that? We go to great lengths. To compete for money that's available in any state, the states we operate in, we go to great lengths to go out of state to bring money here. Okay, because there isn't enough, that, the way dollars we get for housing in this state are federal dollars that are redeployed for through our state agencies. Okay. So that tells you where housing sits along the continuum of government policy.  But that's our reality. And I agree how hardly we need systems changes. But in the meantime, we need to get things done in spite of this system, in spite of the poverty, in spite of the minimum wage, in spite of all those things that we're confronted with every day in spite of that. And the thing that gets up my crawl the most is the numerous plans that have been great for all these darn neighborhoods. Okay, people have been planned to death. We've insulted them with disrespect. Okay. And so forget the plans. Okay. Forget the dinners. You invite people to start doing something. So that's my spiel to everybody. Okay. Now I'll stop with that.


Pepper: No. Keep going. Yes! 


Kathy: That's all I can tell you. It's not easy.  I'm not telling you it's easy. I don't pretend it's easy. It's not for everybody. And I hate to be this simplistic about it, but this is how I do it. It's a game. Learn the rules if you want to play it, and then play it well. And don't cheat.  Okay? Other than that, I don't know what to tell you. 


Pepper: I  love that. This is a game. You want to play it, learn the rules, play it well, and don't cheat. Is that what you said? Because I like it. I'm going to use it. I'll give you full credit. Anyways it seems like  I will be over here in the backseat with my popcorn this morning as we listen to both Alfredo and Kathy talk about how we got here, what we need to do, and What should, what could this look like in South Louisiana to actually have affordable housing? But I always do to ask the simple, stupid question of what does it mean for housing to be affordable? Is it a Is it a price point? So no houses over $300,000. Is it a percentage of what people earn? Is it the number? Is it a house where I don't have to replace the roof every year? What does it mean to have affordable housing?  


Alfredo: Yeah. Pepper,  the other thing that Kathy said that I think it's really important  and I love it. I want that t-shirt with enough rhetoric. Get to work, do something, right? Because that's what happens a lot, especially with elected officials. There is so much rhetoric about what vision they have, what,  will be, and then they get into office and then things don't happen. So I really appreciate Kathy. You raising that point that we really just have to get to work and stop the rhetoric. To your question, pepper. And I loved how you framed it  earlier. Who wouldn't want a, a house they can afford. And in fact. That is the right message. And I just want to encourage us to maybe use that language. I know some of you already sensitive to the fact that affordable housing has been so associated with, this image of  public housing ghettos. With people committing crimes and, black criminals in particular, black and brown criminals committing crimes. And so when you say affordable housing in some more conservative spaces, they're like let's not build that in my neighbor, right? But it's truly is about housing that families can afford. And I was part of A whole messaging project around affordable housing. What is the message that would resonate with people? And that was one of them that resonated the most with people, regardless of race and income was housing that families can afford. And another message was also about speaking about affordable housing, but framing it as, all children should live in safe

housing that their families can afford.  And it's to really change that picture that people make in their minds when they hear affordable housing.  But it does mean that it's housing that families can afford without spending more than 30 percent of their income. And so if you're spending more than 30 percent of your income then you're what's referred to as cost burden, your housing cost burden because you're spending more than 30 percent of your income and then their families who are extremely cost burden because they're spending 50 percent or more of their income. And interestingly families that spend, that are extremely cost burdened because they spend more than 50 percent of their income are  primarily people who already live in poverty. And it makes sense, right? Because they have less income. And when the rent is 650 and they're making the least amount of money, then the majority of their money is going towards that rent. And this correlates with why most people getting evicted are people living in poor communities. Black communities, brown communities make the least money and are living in poverty, and it's because of that cost, that extreme cost burden of paying more than 50% up to 80% even of their income for housing. 


Pepper: Oh, and Reverend Anderson is saying that 30% is this true, includes maintenance, taxes, and insurance. So it's all in, or is it just Yeah, the mortgage, it's just the rent.  


Alfredo: No it also includes utilities, so that, oh, what That 30% includes.  includes utilities. So it's your utilities bills, your rent. So that all is part of the calculus of that 30%. So if you're spending more than 30 percent of your income, people do the math. You might be cost burden more than you thought. But, and so the, so any conversation  about, affordable housing applies to you because you are. You could be extremely cost burden when you add, then these extremely high energy prices that we have today the rising price of water and I just noticed garbage pickup, like all of that gets calculated into the affordability of housing. And in some states, they also calculate  the transportation of going from your home to work. And there's some states that have also added that to the calculus. Because. Where one chooses to live, sometimes it's not in proximity where they work, and that's an additional expense to get to work where they actually earn the money to pay for their housing. That is part of the calculus as well. 


Pepper: I will renew my annual fervor down with energy. Next question is coming from the chat, actually. Thank you for bringing this up, Helena, because I did not know about this. There's a bill in Congress that is attempting to limit corporations or hedge funds for buying single family homes. Do y'all know anything about this? What, is it going to impact, it looks like the, that it's starting with this guy out in Nebraska. Because why would it not? But is this something that we should be concerned about in Louisiana? Where is this something that it's just folks trying to move out to Nebraska that really are going to be affected by it? 


Kathy: This is actually a day late in the dollar short. It's already happened to people. Okay. It's extraordinary and I can't spit them out with any intelligence, but a lot of homes, a lot of single family homes are held by funds, whether you know that or not, it's a fact. Okay. And that model works until folks, until the rents can't be driven high enough to give these investors a return on their investment. And then they're going to sell the houses. That's just the way it works. So they should, Congress should be doing something about that. Okay. On the other hand, if there's a housing rental stock that is well maintained and is made available. That's great. But in the interim, the fact of the matter is it's no different than a short term rental. Buying up houses like that and taking them off the market the same thing happens. You're letting a third party control your destiny when you have groups buy up the real estate, right? You want to control your destiny, start with the dirt. 


Alfredo: I don't know exactly what the bill's attempting to do, but I agree with Kathy. The train left the station a long time ago. And we're just noticing come around again. But this is an issue that's also impacting a lot of renters. It has contributed to the escalating rate of evictions around the country and to the housing prices we're having, particularly for low and moderate income families who are being evicted. These are companies that are not local in our communities. They don't care about what happens in the communities. They're here to make a buck, right? And so they're buying up also, in addition to single family homes, like Kathy mentioned, they're buying up entire buildings. They're investing in entire apartment complexes. And so you see more and more these large apartment complexes that are owned by these firms outside of Louisiana. And that's where a lot of the evictions are occurring, and they're just, since people are constantly trying to find apartments they can afford, housing they can afford they're constantly having clients, and so they evict people when they're late, even a few weeks in their rent, and they're allowed to do so by Louisiana law right? My twin, Alfreda, they're allowed to do this. In Louisiana law by Louisiana law. And so they benefit. From the low level of protections that tenants have in Louisiana, and they make a lot of money here. We are at risk, by the way, we're extremely at risk because we have done very little, almost nothing with our vacant and abandoned properties that are part of our blight problem. A lot, like in New Orleans though New Orleans has done a lot more,  we have done very little about our abandoned vacant properties. very much. And so we're at risk of the same problem occurring with these external actors and investors in buying up a lot of this vacant, abandoned property and doing the same thing and making a lot more money. And so there are things that local governments can do, and I hope this is one of the things that we question candidates in this next election coming up, that there are solutions for ensuring that local properties are protected. That are being turned back into market and the properties can be owned locally or policies that local governments can pass to ensure like those homes can be purchased by local actors, nonprofits. And we have a land.  To make that happen here. And I hope we're paying attention to this and we don't let the strain continue to go by us without us noticing it. 


Casey: I'll just jump in. I typed it over to Pepper. And I said, and I'll just jump in. Alfredo, you can take part two of this question. Kathy your mindset is ultimately the only way to start. First of all, be successful in state sane in this work, right? Is that you need to know the rules work within them  and play to win, right? You have to play to win. And you referenced policy system changes necessary. I'm not saying like a polygon magic wand, but what is some like tangible, real policy and systems changes? That if you were the one making them and could change it to make this whole process chain better for the human beings on the planet, what would they be?


Kathy:  The first thing I would do is wait, raise people's wages. Okay. That's the first thing I would do. It says how many guys it isn't that hard to figure out. Okay. And we can dance around the edges all we want, as long as we want to pay people a little bit of money. Okay. Okay. They're limited in their options, and affordability is a relative thing. What's affordable to somebody making $8 an hour is not the same thing as affordable to a hundred thousand dollars. Which of, we could make a hundred thousand dollars, that just isn't that much money anymore, right? So if that person wants to buy a house. They may be constrained simply away because the system has been set up so that lower income people benefit from the federal money that comes through the state. That's fine. Okay. Doesn't help those people that are not lower income, right? Those folks. Guys, I'm just befuddled. Okay. I've lived here 30 years. I don't get it. Okay. Is anybody watching our population decline?  Anybody pay attention to that? Okay. Okay. This is like we're giving lip service to a lot of stuff living in this state, probably the most pressing issue right now.  Dare I mention insurance? It impacts everybody. How are people voting? You know how they're voting?  They're leaving the state. Okay, we either accept this and continue to let people lead the state, or you got to show up in big numbers and say, we're just this is not acceptable period. Okay, but we don't do that. We're very complacent. Okay. And so this is the hand that I've been dealt a complacent population. In spite of all that, I'm still going to build affordable housing.  So that's just the way it is, folks. And by the way, Okay. There's a lot of affordable housing out there. Do people want to live in it? So let's be real about what we're talking about. We don't want just affordable housing. We want affordable housing that meets standards that we would want our children to live in, even if they only made 8 an hour. Okay. Doesn't have to be luxurious. I'm talking about granite countertops. It could be concrete block building that won't blow away in a hurricane. That's probably better off than what we're given right now. Okay, so we just need to be smarter about it. In the meantime, if we just want to let the good times roll, you guys will get what we get.


Casey:  And we certainly got it.  We certainly did with 28 percent voter turnout. We got what we got. You're right. Appreciate that. Alfredo, what'd you think?  What would you change?  


Alfredo: Yeah I think to build the housing Kathy's talking about that families can afford, the developers cost has to be lower. And there's a lot that governments can do to lower that cost. And to expedite the process because sometimes it's the process of approving applications and, that entire process, the review process, the requirements drive up the cost and the materials keep, and we saw this in over, during COVID, how the materials cost escalated while, government sat on a lot of applications for developing housing. And a lot of the applications are still sitting,  under review. To your question, though, Casey what I think needs to change are some of the policies related to land use. We saw in New Orleans a real strong attempt to pass at city council, a plan unit. I'm not a plan, accessible dwelling unit. A concept and we've heard it, we've heard a lot of folks here advocating for this tiny homes model, right? Accessible dwelling units is what you see a lot in the garden district here. A lot of the homes in the garden district already have this mother in law quarters in the back that's been grandfathered in and people can live there and they rent them. And, when I moved here, I saw a lot of that in the garden district a lot of students renting a lot of those smaller homes. And it was a way to really increase density in neighborhoods. And we're primed for that here in Baton Rouge, where a lot of our lots are much bigger than what in other communities like in New Orleans. And so we have a lot of the older neighborhood aging people aging homeowners. Who don't need a 3 bedroom to bathroom house anymore. They could rent that if they can only have a accessible dwelling unit where they can live smaller, more manageable and have this income by renting their house. So there's those kinds of solutions of, looking at our land use policies to allow some of those smaller, more affordable housing to be developed, creating more density in areas where we have the space, we have the lots that can accommodate more density. And so those are some of the policy solutions, but often we just look at the funding  solutions and then we say, oh, we don't have enough money. And, we're dead in the water, but there's a lot of solutions that we can, implement by changing some of our land use policies and zoning.  


Casey: Okay.  Oh, I'm sorry. Go ahead. I apologize. 


Alfredo: We just don't talk enough about those, and  do we hear at all from people working in, urban planning and on that level of policy. In our local governments to help with the affordability crisis. We're having.


Casey:  Kathy, Pepper. I'm sorry. I'm going to keep rolling with some questions. Kathy, you said something at the very beginning that some of the folks on here may have not heard whenever you were, you introducing the work of Gulf Coast Housing. You said that you're competing for dollars in every state where you talk about that process a little bit and how transparent and how equitable that process is.


Kathy: Competitive process. The pendulum swings. Are we always happy with the outcome? No. And I hear all the backstories and who's getting more than somebody else and somebody's whispering in some many years and somebody's here, that's life and that's true. And I can't let that get in our way. Okay. And I don't have enough hours in the day to try to figure out who's getting an extra dollar. And so we compete through state agencies. Okay. And there is a scoring sheet. Okay. You think it's tough here in Mississippi. Everybody ends up with the same score. Okay. So  how do you decide? But that's the reality, right? And so what do you do if you lose? You play again, right? You try again. Okay. So through the states, the predominant financial tool to build apartments for lower income people is called a low income housing tax credit. which you compete for to get a higher credit.

You can get them automatically if your transactions can be sustainable by issuing tax exempt bonds. Okay, I'm giving you more information than you need. But those are two, the most predominant source for producing affordable housing. Those are federal credits and they're doled out by per capita population. So guess what people, as our population declines, those credits are going to go down for our state. The other tools out there are you compete for philanthropy. And as you all know, there's very few foundations, first of all, that are based in Louisiana. And secondly, that have any interest in affordable housing. They may have interest one year, but they don't have interest for 20 years. Okay, and this is a problem that needs long term consistent solutions in funding and that's on our foundations work. Okay, they all they're like little bees, they flip them from issue to issue. And it's very predictable. Okay. And the moral of the story is, you've got to take advantage of the largest when it's available. And no full well. Any minute of any day, the spigot could turn off, right? So you need multiple relationships throughout the state and throughout the nation. Federal Home Loan Bank. Okay, you can compete for affordable housing grants. Those are available for both rental and home ownership. You need a bank sponsor? Go out and make nice with your local banks. Find out what Federal Home Loan Bank systems their members up. Okay. We know there's not enough capital in any of the states we work in, okay, with the exception of Texas. Because there's a lot more philanthropy in Texas. So the markets we work in, we're trying to create, we're trying to create more capital into the ventures we're doing. In our spiel right now, we have two pilot ventures, one in New Orleans and one in Jackson, Mississippi where we've embedded health clinics on site. Okay, and we have managed care organizations, UnitedHealthcare  and Aetna. They're investing in our transactions. They're paying a premium for the tax credits and they're giving us below market financing. We're borrowing it below markets. We believe that if we can prove that healthcare, if you make healthcare accessible, and by the way we're counting. We have public health officials. We have  Louisiana Public Health Institute. We have the insurance companies and we have the clinic operators around the table. We're starting, we're moving people in now. The ventures are done. We're going to collect data, healthcare data, okay? Our proposition is that, I don't know if you guys ever get called on by managed care organizations, okay? And I bring them up specifically because they compete for state contracts. And when those, that competitive window opens, chances are they may knock on your door because they want your story to include in their response and how they're helping you. So maybe they'll give you a grant. Temporary rental assistance or whatever. When they came to see us, we said, no, thank you. I can't do anything with temporary rental assistance. And by the way, your business card, you're a salesperson.  I don't want the business card from the salesperson. I want the business card from the treasurer's office, right? And so we decided we got to prove to these people that this is in their own financial best interest. Okay, they don't talk about it. I don't know how many of you have heard about the social determinants, right? Housing being one, talk is cheap.  Okay, but you have to be able to present  people a solution. You can't just cry about it. Give them something to invest in that makes sense. And if they have to, if you happen to have a concession, explain why  and what do they get in return to make because this is a business people and in spite of all our bleeding hearts, you better approach it like a business because I think you'll get a better outcome. 


Casey: Oh, Kathy, I suspected that I would eventually have this conversation with you and you would find your way directly into my heart.  Thank you for that.  Okay and I want to also lift up that Carl from Europe is here. Ebony is here who lots of experience. And so I would love to get your voice and Chris. I see you got your hand raised. So don't think that we're not, we forgot about you, bro. Alfredo or Kathy jump in on this one Alfredo, I'll give it to you first. Like Kathy said, it's a business and let's talk about banks. At their office, just waiting to hear your sad story and give you as much money as you want. That's not how it works. And it feels like, with some really transparent conversation with folks that are working in some of the large banks that it feels like, one of the bank's big problems with CRA. They're CRA compliance and getting dinged for it. And that's a way that they put a lot of money on the ground to nonprofit organizations that were working in systematically disinvested neighborhoods. And it was checking their boxes, but it was just, it was just check. And then the nonprofits, we all figure out how to change our container to make it fit, but still keep the mission moving, but it feels like the banks are starting to get wise with the shifts in CRA dollars that they can, they have figured out that affordable housing, they can hold investments into affordable housing, keeps them CRA compliant. But I don't, I'll be honest. I don't fully wrap my mind on what the hell that actually means. And is it actually doing good on the ground? And who are the banks that are investing and bringing those dollars really successfully? That's making a change. So Alfredo, do you got any words on that? And Kathy, we'll turn it back over to you. 


Alfredo: Yeah. The yes the CRA community reinvestment act. Federal law that requires banks to invest in low income areas where they do business simplest way to explain that and a lot of banks fall out of compliance because they're lending practices in particular, the lending practices, people of color trying to get a mortgage loan. Don't get a loan from a lot of banks. And it's based on predictors that there will be, risk borrowers because of the fact that they're black or brown and so their lending practices. And data show that they have a low lending rate in a lot of black communities. There are a lot of banks that are out of compliance of this in this, and so they desperately try to find solutions and they end up investing in programs that don't produce housing. They might produce a lot of classes for first time homeowners. That's the type of investment. Then my sponsor activities to repair credit. But, it's all focused on individual interventions of potential buyers or potential renters but not necessarily on solving for the construction, the actual supply of funds needed to drive down the cost of purchasing a home. And so that's how we end up with an escalating price of housing in the market because there really is. A lack of the subsidy that banks could be providing. I can't tell you who's doing a really good job locally. I know JPMorgan Chase not a local bank, but, has  a strong local presence. Is one of the strongest actors in this camp and really trying to do a lot of investments on multiple levels improving its lending practices because those aren't, without flaw. At all, but really doing a lot of investments, including here in Baton Rouge major projects to reinvest in low income areas like our North Baton Rouge project that on that corridor. Sorry, I'm blanking out on the name. Yeah. The Plank Road corridor and, Red River Bank, I think it's one that stands out for me that also is doing. Some significant work investments, they don't have the box that some of the larger banks have to do investments. And so they do small, smaller projects, smaller investments.

But that's one that really stands out for me as doing. And then you have credit unions that also are probably the most active actors in this space of CRA investments credit unions providing a lot of different products. To help families in low income areas afford homes and have better lending practices and by nature, by their nature, being credit unions and being more centered around communities. Color and in poverty.  


Casey: Thank, yeah. Thank you Alfredo. Yeah. Hopefully that  abs. Absolutely. And it looks like Ebony kind of built on it in the chat. Carl also built on it. Would either of you like to come off mute and give your perspective? 


Carl Dillion: Hi everyone. And sure. I'm that and to go back to what Alfredo was saying. I think, and what, and Ebony as well, is that when you look at a CRA, it's not just giving dollars directly, but there's certain products and services. And what I've seen mostly in our line of work is your larger banks, they are more open to giving some of those first. Homebuyer dollars making those types of investments and having different products that are advantageous to first time homebuyers, whether that be a little to no down payment.

If they're giving closing calls assistance with some of their products, that's what I see with a lot of your larger banks and some of your smaller banks, they are a little bit more willing. And have a little bit more flexibility to invest in some of your developments. And when I say that, there may be some of these larger banks that are a little bit more risk prone to some of the larger developments. But for some of the developments that we do that are small scale is more so of your smaller banks. Your Cadence Bank or your Cottonport Bank or your Red River. Those are some of your smaller banks that are  A little bit more willing to invest in some of the affordable housing development as opposed to your larger developments, where they want to give the the products to the first time homebuyers and invest in some of the education. 


Casey: Thank you, Carl. I appreciate all that information. And by the way, if some of you don't know Carl in the work he’s doing in Baton Rouge, you should. And I really recommend that you connect with Carl. They do a lot of great work across the city parish, but specifically in North Baton Rouge and we're doing it before it was getting attention. Ebony, did you want to come off mute or are you multitasking and you said what you needed to say in the chat before I go over to Chris?


Ebony Starks: Sure. I just want to talk a little bit. I could talk about all of this, but CRA in particular is really important because I think if we are looking solely to depend on CRA dollars to provide capital for large scale community investment. Projects that is that's not happening. CRA Is a requirement that focuses on banks meeting the needs of low to moderate income communities. And over the years, even in my work from Atlanta to here, I've seen banks find creative ways to meet their CRA requirements that do not involve direct investment in organizations or projects. that will significantly affect or improve the lives of these individuals. It can look like providing, waving the fee to open a checking account, which ultimately serves the bank's interest. It can look like providing quote unquote low interest loans with that bank for these individuals. So I think we just have to realize that We, while CRA can, with the right banking partner, be a useful tool, in no way can it be a major tool in our toolbox. We have got to support the creation of CDFIs that actually deploy funds to local communities. We've got to support the creation of flexible pools of capital to support development projects and provide gap funding. We know that many of our large We're seeing scale housing projects are seeing gaps in funding, around 5 million 3 to 5 million.

We're seeing developers come and they're having to layer 15 stacks and sources of capital. To make these projects happen, and we as a community have got to make it easier to create these affordable housing opportunities, and that's not going to happen through CRA And so there are ways we can do that. There is legislation. There is policy that can change. But I just wanted to frame that because we have got to think differently and creatively, and it's happening other places. It can happen here. We can do this. So that's all. I'll turn that over. 


Alfredo: You're muted, Casey. Casey.  There you go. 


Casey: I was just saying, Ebony, please send me a link to your 2028 campaign for governor and I am in for it. As said, Chris, and then back over to Kathy and Pepper to jump into some questions from the chat. Chris, what you got? Thank you for being patient. 


Christopher: Yeah, no problem. Good morning, everyone. Couple things that I've heard about that. I'm curious to what the panel thinks one around and I think they both potentially could relate to either blighted or Empty lots. So one would be with property tax, having the base of the tax be on the land itself as opposed to the improvements. I can see how that could be both potentially good and bad. The other one is specifically with. I understand or I understand it. I wish it wasn't this way. The difficult nature with clearing a title of a property that might have, they could be going back 150 years. French law, all that stuff. And my understanding talking to somebody yesterday at the chamber was that even once a, I don't know if I'm saying this correctly, but a property is adjudicated or that the title is cleared, Okay. Oftentimes nobody will invest in developing the property because they might not be the eventual buyer might not be able to get title insurance. So that was a new caveat for me, but out of those 2 issues, both the basis for the property tax and also this issue of title insurance. I wonder if the panel has any comments on that. 


Kathy: I think we hadn't heard the titles clean. You should be able to get title insurance. I'm not sure what somebody was telling you. I don't agree with what you're communicating. 


Christopher: Okay,  it was somebody with the housing authority in Baton Rouge. So when you said that, I was like I thought that was the whole point of getting it clear. 


Kathy: It's time adjudication. There still is a time period, but when that's gone, it's a clear title. Now, you want to get title insurance for sure, but regardless, you're getting clear title.


Christopher: Okay I'll follow up on that, because that, I also, that was a little bit of a head scratcher.


Kathy: Yeah, now, he may have been thinking, or she may have been thinking about, if it's simply been adjudicated, there's still a process it has to go through to get clear title. Okay maybe I'm  confusing this.


Christopher: Some of the policy changes to try to staff those agencies so they can move it quicker, more efficiently. Or more transparently or something, but anyways, okay, thank you. 


Kathy: Yeah, and then with, I would just say get a good title of attorney, okay? That's my advice there. With regards to the taxes, I'm not sure how to respond. Do we, people should pay property taxes. I don't know what the numbers should be, right? On our light tech transactions, we do get property tax relief. Okay. It's based upon a formula of capping N. O. Y. And that was a fight that took us a long time. Okay. Because guess what? Every assessor has his own little rule book. It's a little hard to navigate that. And most of them play by the same rule book now, but they don't have to. On the the other thing people might may or may not be aware of. You can get property tax abatement. Okay, if you're renovating buildings, there's a five year abatement based upon the existing taxes in place. So if that's something you'd like to pursue, you should do. That would hold your pre improvement tax valuation. Okay, in place after you did the improvements, you wouldn't pay at the accelerated assessed value pay at the prior value for five years. You can renew it for another five, which means you have to invest more money unless you're a chemical plant and then you get it for nothing. 


Casey: Oh, man, I've never been more thankful for y'all's ears that the mute button was on because that was a heartfelt laugh right there. Thank you, Kathy, for that. Wow, Alfredo.


Alfredo: I just wanted to elevate a point that the risk that Chris talked about for a developer is the redemption period. So a property that's adjudicated, there's a redemption period by Louisiana law, and that is like the window when, there could be a contest, a petition, the title clearance can be contested by an heir owner. So it's that redemption period that creates a risk. But I know just anecdotally from folks who have bought properties. That were  adjudicated and just did not know that they needed to have a clear title. And the problem didn't have clear title. And so that was, the problem and the risk they got into not just having them not having the knowledge that the property really needed to have a clear title. They thought it was adjudicated, they could  purchase it because obviously was being sold. And then they got in trouble when they couldn't get clear title. Casey, I wanted to elevate.  Sorry, I just wanted to elevate a couple of things that we've mentioned, but, I  put in the chat, by the way, a link to the National Low Income Housing Coalition's latest report, GAP report for anybody that wants to look more deeply into data about the lack of affordable housing in Louisiana. And if you go to National Coalition's website, they have data specific to the parish and cities. Louisiana. But I wanted to share this  with you all because often we hear about affordable housing being developed. But the folks who really lack look at this data from this gap report. The folks who really lack housing are those who I mentioned earlier in our conversation are most cost burden. Those are lowest income families. And so if we're not developing housing for those families, we're just perpetuating the problem. And this report shows that. Folks making 80 percent AMI, area median income are the ones for whom there is an abundance of housing because they can afford it. They have a choice. They have a lot more choices. The Alice population of somebody pointed out in the chat. Is the population live in paycheck to paycheck. And they're the ones most at risk of being housing. Insecure. And also falling into poverty rates that put them at risk of eviction for lack of ability to pay for their housing, because they're very cost burden. So look at this data, if you have a chance, become familiar with the numbers, because it's important to make the case for more development of housing, rental housing in particular, for this population that extremely cost burden. And not be. So impressed by housing, affordable housing being developed, but it's for the 80 percent of my population  for whom there's already a lot of housing choices, rental housing choices. So that's 1 point I wanted to make. The other is what Matthew Desmond says in his book that, this argument that housing is a human right is a real questionable argument because. If you want to argue that, then you have to argue against the point that making a lot of money by renting housing to people is not a human right in America. And it is, in this economy, in this economic model that we have, making a lot of money from renting housing to people is a right  as well. And this problem that Kathy pointed out about wages. is the key to helping families afford where they live. And we know that we've tried to solve that here in Louisiana by increasing the wages and even getting to wage equity. By increasing wages for women, pay women more. How many times did we say that last year, right? And some of you got the t shirt, pay women more.  And we have a wage disparity. And it's perpetuating the problem that as  Desmond points out in his book,  it's the women with young children who are most at risk of being housed in this place and being evicted. three times more likely to get evicted than men. And in the research that he did for his book in Milwaukee he showed that women who were evicted in this study, the Milwaukee Eviction Court Study those that were evicted the most were those that got an eviction judgment were those with children. So it's not just people getting evicted, it's children getting evicted. So I just wanted to raise those 2 points and share with folks the data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition GAP report so that we get educated people about what is the housing that we need and for whom, so we're not so impressed by all these other housing that might be being developed because it still doesn't help Low income families that are finding themselves evicted and experiencing homelessness. 


Pepper: So before I come to you, Pat Ledeff, on your iPhone, I do have a really quick question because I got a little bit lost and sometimes I do, it happens. Are we talking, when we say affordable housing, are we talking about renting and the people who are purchasing or investors and developers? Or are we talking about programs that are available for those folks who are cost burdened to be able to move into homes themselves? Thank you.  Purchase the property themselves.  


Alfredo: All of it. 


Kathy: Yeah, you're talking about all of it. Okay. So you need to produce it, right? And people need to be able to pay for it. Okay. Call it afforded, but they long story short, they need the money to pay the rent. And I also say this folks, this is a shocking number. And I don't remember a shocking bit  of information. Desmond,  he's written another book and I heard him speak a couple months ago, maybe three months ago. And, it was stunning. It's stunning. Okay. I know we want to look at the banks. We want to look at the people that aren't helping us. But it's an extraordinary amount of money.  Okay, extraordinary amount  of federal money that is allocated for folks of lower incomes. And only a third of that money gets to the people that need it. Okay, we are  bamboozled by the great distractors. You think about, permanent supportive housing, which is a program run through Louisiana Housing Corporation and the Department of Health, which is supposed to house, these people have vouchers, okay, they don't have to pay it themselves, supposed to house the most the lowest income  folks with mental disabilities. You would think every unit would be full, wouldn't you?  Look around your communities. They're not.  Okay. You look at what happened with the Child Welfare Agency. You look at so many things out there that we accept.  Okay, but those are our money. Those are our dollars, and they're not getting to the people that everybody on this call wants to help. So where are those dollars going?  Are they held hostage in somebody's bank account? Some government agency doesn't want to spend them because the wrong party gave us the money?  Okay, what is it that's holding us back? And we're not, we're we're not talking about that. You want to blame the banks.

Guys, there's enough blame to go around. Okay, there's a whole bunch of money that's stuck there. Why? And why can't we get it? If people can't be in the homeless folks that are living on the street, we can't house them.  We've got empty permanent supportive housing units. Go figure. Why does that make sense? But we'll talk about it. We've been talking about that since the program started. And that program started, by the way, after Katrina.  Okay. So how many years of deficiency and dysfunction does it take for people to get angry and say those 3000 units should never be empty?  I don't hear anybody. Anybody talking about that. 


Casey: So wait a minute. I just want to make sure that I understand point of clarity. This is not a leading question. I'm just wanting clarity. So federal dollars for affordable housing all come through HUD. Is that a true statement or there are other federal government agencies come through HUD? What are the other ones that do that in some that touch housing?


Kathy: It may not be a direct housing investment. Absolutely. But there are resources available for those folks in need that would tangentially touch housing. Okay. Independent, there's housing monies. Okay. And all I'm suggesting is that we're always being told to run to the same players.  Distracting us from possibly the biggest source of monies out there. 


Ebony: I just want to add, and I'm sorry to jump in, but what Kathy is hitting the nail on the head, and I just want to expand on that. So I actually saw Matthew Desmond speak as well in, I think it was October or November of last year at our Philanthropy Southeast conference. And something that. He mentions that happens in states across America, but also here in Louisiana is we receive TANF, temporary assistance for needy families, allocations, and it's based on the most vulnerable populations among us and Only 11%.

So TANF can look like direct payments to our most needy families to help support their monthly costs. So things like housing, right? It would offset those costs. Louisiana's TANF allocation, they keep the state almost 90 percent of that allocation to provide supportive services.  It is at the state's discretion what percentage of their TANF allocation goes to direct assistance to needy families. So again, this is talked about the Louisiana budget project has looked at this in depth. It's something that, again, it's not unique to Louisiana, but if you look at other states, that allocation amount could differ greatly. It could be the difference. The average TANF payment in Louisiana, last time I checked, was like 160. 

So I think when we're talking about other pools of money that aren't just housing related, but they could be used to offset housing costs and an impactful way, that's when we have to start looking at what are the real sources of funding we get as a state, how do we spend that to actually impact the monthly budgets of those most in need, and who do we hold accountable for that? 

Alfredo: Great point.  That's a great point. I know the Department of Justice, The Department of Justice has housing money as well as part of the justice reimbursement initiative nationally some of those savings costs from having less people incarcerated is supposed to go to reduce recidivism by having people safely housed somewhere because you come out of jail, you have to go to somewhere to a home. And so there's money for housing within Department of Justice. All the ARPA money that was housing related came from the Department of Treasury.  It didn't come from HUD. Department of Agriculture has a lot of housing money that people don't even know about. Don't pay attention to because we always think apart, but our culture has a lot of money for housing as well. And even Department of Transportation has a lot of money for like design of, housing that accommodates. Different modes of transportation, not just cars, like how to do development in a way that accommodates bicycles and pedestrians safely.  So there's money everywhere, pockets of money everywhere and I'm really looking forward to this work One Rouge will be doing to, really look at all these different funding sources that could be used to reduce poverty. And looking at the sources of funding that could be used to support housing solutions in particular. 


Pepper: All right. Miss Pat, what you got? God, I made her wait so long, and now she don't even know what question was. Pat LaDuff, you there? 


Casey: Petite Pisto Award winning Pat LaDuff, are you there?  All right. 


Pepper: Welcome back. Reverend Anderson, what's up? 


Reverend Anderson: I've been yelling from the check one word zoning and zoning. And I have to say that because  when we talk about housing and I'm not differentiating between owner housing and rental housing,  zoning is the thing local governments can use to kill everything and do kill everything.  And so if you're in a community of color,  Scotlandville, any number of communities. You understand that very specifically because local governments can come in and do things like eminent domain in the current environment. We have policy makers who are running around yelling that you don't want to have certain housing in certain areas, and they have the ability because they control the zoning commission. And I think one of the challenges and I'm so grateful for the work that Alfredo did, because he went out of his way  to talk to the people we don't talk to.  He talked to justice impacted people. He talked to our immigrant community, documented and undocumented. He talked to people that were looking at the fact that if you have a high justice impacted community. And I say this, I don't think people hear it. When you get arrested, your landlord has the ability to show up at an eviction court and throw you and your family out. Not because you got convicted of anything and not because it was a violent crime or anything else, because you got arrested. When we talk about people who have special needs, things like what is that, that social media page that Neighbor, neighbor thing that will go out and literally blanket a community with bad information about a particular type of population. And so as much as we talk about where the funding comes from, thank you. Next door. I just want to say two things. Elections matter and the truth is, and again, I'm apologizing upfront,  when you don't make the connection to people. Between how the folk you voting in and the house they live in  is going to be impacted. You're going to get a 28 percent  voter turnout. We have legacy property, particularly in African American communities,  where because of zoning, because of FEMA,  because of Cancer Alley,  our communities are being devastated and those homeowners did nothing wrong. They just happen to be the wrong.  We have over 250,000 people in Louisiana  who have suspended driver's licenses because of traffic issues. And how that plays out in the real world is more devastating than most people know. And so when I say that, yes, we can talk about developers, we can talk about all those other things. But if we don't talk about I think Kathy said it best.  You got to learn the rules of the game and zoning is rule.Number one rule. Number two is budgets matter.  Budgets always matter. They're not incidental. They're not accidental. They're not just for the smart people. Budgets matter, especially to poor people.  And then the last thing, and again, I apologize, but I've been doing this for a long time.  When you are not willing to hear something other than what you want to hear. We are a big justice impacted state. And right now, because of this election, we about to triple that number.  We are a very poor state as it relates to the Alice and the Isaac population. And because of this last election, we about to triple that. Our young people who go to these great. Nationally recognized universities graduate and walk away. Who doesn't walk away?  The people who get technical degrees, the people who become plumbers and carpenters, and we don't incentivize them  to be homeowners. This is passionate for me because it matters, but if you keep doing the same thing you've always done and you keep having the same conversation you've always had,  you're literally going to get the same results you already have. And I think what's so powerful. And like I said, I want to go back to the report. Alfredo did.  It is powerful. It is groundbreaking, but it is also uniquely different than anything that has ever been done. And it has not been used wisely. He won't say that, but I will. It has not been used wisely. It is specific to Louisiana and our unique issues. And so I'm gonna go back on chat and hush, Good morning, everybody. 


Alfredo: Thank you, Reverend Anderson for saying that and for reminding me it is because of that Market segmentation study that I worked on with the University of North Carolina Greensboro Center for housing and community studies that I was introduced to this One Rouge group and it was my friend Jan, who invited me. To this One Rouge, which conversation to talk about the study that was at that point underway and also thank you, Reverend Andrews for raising the point that it has not been used in the manner that it was intended. To help drive for some of the solutions and zoning solutions, policy solutions that wouldn't cost a whole lot of money, but would save a whole lot of money and make housing more possible for people. And what was unique about that study also is that what is unique about the studies that it looks at how we got here, all the different systemic racist. Ways in which we segregated people and other reasons with data and and then, ends with some recommendation, solid recommendations that were supposed to be followed. And we're still not seeing a lot of that done. So it is an election year and really want folks to pay attention to this issue a bit more to question, like what should be different in our future.  


Pepper: Real talk. So thank y'all so much. I didn't  realize that all I had to do was spin the top and let y'all run. But thank you for being here, especially over time. I genuinely appreciate everything that y'all have said and that y'all have shared. I know Kathy's got to drop off. But want to make sure that you do know that genuinely appreciate you staying over time. Alfredo's got another couple of minutes. It looks like Pat finally figured out that we were talking to her. So we'll hear from Pat LeDuff and then shift to community announcements so that y'all can go on and enjoy your day. Pat LeDuff,  what you got?


Pat LeDuff: Yes. Good morning. I wanted to go back to Chris because I wanted to address. The issue with the title insurance because that's what happened with the grocery store in Scotlandville, over $50,000 spent doing all the title work. And at the end of the day, we could not get title insurance for property that actually was being. Some in a way donated through the the land bank through bill Baton Rouge. So that is a true thing. We had property donated to us before we could not get title insurance. Chase bank way back then when it was bank one, did a special something where they put the money aside just in case somebody came back in the. 20 years, those properties are now cleared now. But the only clear is that I that I've experienced is when you go through the sheriff's sale. That completely cleared, but there are issues where this property adjudicated abandoned property. When you get to the end of To the end of it to get ready to build a house on it. You can't get title insurance on it. So I just wanted to, I do know about that. I work with that. And I want to make sure that we can find out more information about it. But it is a true thing. 


Pepper: All right. So on that note, we will shift to some of the things that you might be doing this weekend. Perhaps you are looking for titles. Perhaps you are looking for title insurance.  Otherwise. What else is going on this weekend in Baton Rouge, y'all? Reverend Anderson,  what you got? 


Rev. Anderson: In keeping in what I was saying, there are two expungement events going on this weekend. One of them is at Southern Law Center, and the other one is at the Leo S. Butler Center. Both of them are tomorrow. I believe they actually are the same time. So I believe they're 10 to 2pm. If anybody on the call has the more exact information obviously as everybody's brought up the special session is happening on Monday, the 19th  and Citizens need to get involved. There's no other way of describing that. Also, Monday is President's Day, and so the courts will be closed in recognition of that. 


Pepper: Courts, banks, city hall, anything that's government related. Auntie B?


Alfreda Tillman Bester:  Good morning, everybody. I actually lowered my hand pepper because Reverend Anderson said that the special session dealing with the criminal legal system starts on Monday at the Louisiana Legislature. I know that most of you are not going to be able to go down there, but please know that you can access the events that are happening there, especially if there are any committee meetings in the big session at legis.la.gov, legis.la.gov, so that you can observe what is about to happen. You notice that I did not say criminal justice because there's no such thing as a criminal justice system in this

country. It is the criminal legal system that is being addressed and they're going to use it according to the call of the session to roll back most of what we saw happen in the criminal justice reinvestment back in 2016 and 17. Make your voices heard, make your voices heard. 


Pepper: And Helena has dropped in the chat. We have in person coalition meetings coming up this week. We'll have Education 2 career on Tuesday, CAFE which is Capital Area Food Equity coalition on Wednesday. And then on Thursday is transportation and mobility.  Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 


Casey: Do we have can I triple that plea? So Friday's y'all this is the learning lab. This is the thought leadership. This is the learning the brave space, right? So even when people say things that feel a little bit not as progressed as they need to be, this is still a respectful space in zoom. But the work, it's, this is the dialogue, this is important, but the work happens in the coalitions. And I don't know if we've really emphasized that enough of how important it is for you all to be engaged in the in person quarterly meetings, because much of the direction of the work, including the education and advocacy pushes that you're seeing right now come out of cafe around the summer EBT program that is coming from building together in person. So if you are involved in the food insecurity, the food, abundance, food, sovereignty, space anything that touches that, please be there on Wednesday at the downtown river center. And the food is going to be good every time I promise. And everybody's got to eat and come meet with your people. And then on Tuesday. If you are passionate about education and workforce and everything from the babies from the cradle all the way to the encore career that people have, if that is what lights you on fire, please be there on Tuesday. And then lastly, the transportation and I'm going to use the word upward mobility. I like upward mobility myself because it sets the intention of where I want to see things go. So I bring that to that conversation. The transportation upward mobility coalition to me is probably one of the more complex ones. And we need people who have areas of expertise in all the different sides that touch transportation and how it impacts upward mobility from an equitable standpoint. I would argue that every single person on this call actually touches that. And that is an area that needs a lot of attention and passion. So next week, look at your calendars. If you have a lunch, just what a friend to catch up. Maybe slide that up to coffee in the morning time and come and show up in with your friends in the work and not be with us next week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the downtown library. If anybody needs a place to park, they can always park at the walls as Reverend Anderson knows. And if you don't know where the walls offices, just ask Reverend Anderson and she will be happy to escort you right to the V. I. P. Parking space that has her name. Indirectly on it. Thank y'all in pepper. Thanks for the space because I really want to see some faces you know in the room next week.


Pepper: And we also have to Tehkoa Thank you so much. Youth Oasis is having a meet and greet at the drop in center later on this evening so I would counter that if you've got a lunch meeting bring them with you because we will have lunch at the River Center. So thank you all so much for being here. I appreciate you staying longer. I know I only asked for an hour of your time and I took so much more than that. I appreciate you giving it without without hesitation. Thank you. We will see you next Friday, right back here. Same bat time, same bat channel. 


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