‘Hood Rent

The two older black women who live directly across the courtyard from us (oh, around 15 yards from our front door) told us they are moving. One of the ladies, Chocolate, who – I kid not – shares a name with her dog[1], has a brain tumor. She’s hit me up for money a few times. I obliged the first time. After that, I told her (truthfully) that I have no money. She’s been cranky ever since. Her roommate, Janet, however, is nice.

Anyway. They’re moving out. According to Chocolate, our apartment complex is increasing the rent by $200 when leases come up. That puts it at $1150 a month for 750-square feet, two bedrooms and a bathroom with broken microwaves, windows and refrigerators[2]. Nice.

Even more surprisingly, the housing projects’ market-rate hovels across the street are being rented for $1050–$1150, as well.

This isn’t going to end well for New Orléans.Canal Street (NYPL: Public Domain)

In a city with no industry aside from tourism[3], with an increase in apartments and houses only rented to visitors using Airbnb (and its competitors) instead of long-term leases for residents, rampant violations[4] of existing short-term rental rules, violence and really crappy public services[5], the supposedly improving NOLA economy is going to have one hell of a time taking off. If those of us with halfway well-paid jobs in the booming industries – knowledge sectors, creative agencies, tech companies, etc. (all the things the city claims to want/be growing into) – leave town.

Trust me: Disney ain’t moving anything more than a retail store here, if that. There won’t be a frog design or IDEO or any other established, profitable creative agency/company moving to New Orléans[6]. And who really wants to work for GE? Coca-Cola? Exxon?

Yet, New Orléans is nothing if not neighborhoods. The entire town is known by neighborhood. “Where do you live?” Uptown, which is west of the CBD (also its own neighborhood) and the French Quarter. Opposite from what you’d expect. “What you stay?” Gentilly. Where are we? LGD – Lower Garden District – right next to St. Thomas Development[7].

Hotels do not a city make.

Or do they?



[1] I’ve seen her dogs once – shortly after we moved in when I went over to their apartment for some expired food from their church. They never go outside. I wonder if they’re litter-box trained.

[2] Also, if you don’t catch the owners, they’ll let you pay $24 a month for sanitation you don’t use. I sent an email asking how they’d prefer to reimburse me – by check or out of next month’s rent – for my previous unnecessary payments to city sanitation.

[3] And, to a degree, oil and gas, when they’re producing profits.

[4] The mayor’s aunt is breaking short-term rental rules by renting out her 3,000-square-foot house on Airbnb for $750 a night. Why exactly isn’t that called a “bed and breakfast” and regulated as such?

[5] The traffic light half a block down has been stuck on red and yellow for days. Think about it: If this happened in any other city, I would have called it in immediately. Here? Meh. Don’t care. No one else does either. (I have, however, spent hours on the phone with USPS – national and local – to get my mail picked up and delivered like happens in normal cities.)

[6] New Orleans’ Public Affairs Office is outsourced to a private firm. Never seen that before.

[7] That’s not on most maps nowadays. Whitewash.

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