CCHD collection helps land-trust housing initiative

By Peter Finney Jr.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), which funds anti-poverty programs in the U.S., will be taken up at all churches of the Archdiocese of New Orleans at Masses on the weekend of Nov. 18-19.

In the archdiocese, 75 percent of the money raised through the annual second collection is used to fund local programs that seek to eradicate poverty, said Kevin Fitzpatrick, director of the Office of Justice and Peace for Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans.

One of the major beneficiaries of last year’s collection is Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative (www.jpnsi.org), a nonprofit community land trust that develops permanently affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families severely affected by the increasing cost of renting in New Orleans.

Jane Place, located in Mid-City on Palmyra Street, renovated a four-plex for $1.2 million and used a community land trust to commit the apartments to low-income residents in the future.

Under land trust rules, Jane Place purchases the land and holds it in perpetuity, and then leases or sells homes on the land at affordable rates. It is developing several other properties.

Jane Place advocates for renters’ rights and helped stop the immediate eviction of residents of the American Can apartments from their homes. That advocacy resulted in a 10-month stay of the evictions, secured funds that residents used for relocation and assisted them in finding new places to live.

Rents in New Orleans have increased sharply since the redevelopment of property after Hurricane Katrina, and the stock of affordable housing has shrunk, Fitzpatrick said. Permitting short-term rentals of houses and apartments also has escalated rental prices, putting a squeeze on low-income families.

“That’s happening particularly in Treme and Marigny,” Fitzpatrick said. “Short-term rentals are driving up the cost of rent and pushing out homeowners. There have been stories of one family being there for four generations and another for eight, and finally they felt pushed by the short-term rentals.”

The short-term rentals also attract tourists who are in New Orleans to party, Fitzpatrick said, changing the residential nature of some neighborhoods.

The Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative also is pushing for a citywide rental registry that would require landlords to register with the city and undergo inspections every time the property turns over “to make sure the house is suitable to be rented,” Fitzpatrick said.

The CCHD also has supported the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, which protects the rights of day laborers. With the support of the city’s judicial branch, the center set up two warrant clinics at Corpus Christi Community Center to resolve long-term legal fines for things such as minor traffic violations.

“The judges work with people who have traffic violations to have them reduced or completely removed,” Fitzpatrick said. “People rack up fines they can’t pay and then, because of fear of not paying, they don’t appear in court, and the fines continue to accrue. It’s almost like a debtor’s prison. A lot of times it’s for things like a broken taillight. This is completely in partnership with the judges, who have the capacity to make those forgiveness decisions.”

For more information on the CCHD, go to http://www.usccb.org/about/catholic-campaign-for-human-development/

Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at pfinney@clarionherald.org.

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