New Orleanians fight for equitable housing


A “for rent” sign is displayed outside of a business. Renters in New Orleans have recently fought for equitable housing. Photo via Unsplash

Destiny Sanders, Staff Writer

Local renters, including college students staying in properties near Loyola and Tulane, have encountered what one housing expert called a “lopsided” system in favor of the city’s landlords. 

The expert, Maxwell Ciardullo, director of policy and communications and the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center, said the majority of renters in New Orleans have to deal with lots of health and safety violations. 

The Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center is a 25-year-old civil rights, nonprofit organization based in New Orleans that was founded to help stop housing discrimination and segregation within New Orleans and the state of Louisiana, Ciardullo said.

One Loyola alumnus has advocated to be part of a solution to the issue that many area students face.

Black mold, gas leaks, and holes in the floor are common health and safety violations that renters in New Orleans face on a daily basis, said Kim Diaz, a member of the New Orleans renters rights assembly and Loyola alumnus. 

Many renters don’t fully understand their lease, which leads to landlords taking advantage of them, especially college aged tenants, Diaz said. Diaz got involved with the New Orleans renters rights assembly after living in a house with black mold and a gas leak in 2021.

“A lot of times students move into places owned by notorious landlords in the city without knowing,” Diaz said.

Diaz said that New Orleans is a diverse city, and all renters, regardless of their race or sex, deserve to be treated fairly throughout the renting process.

Mia Upshaw, a senior filmmaking major at Loyola University New Orleans, decided to live off campus for the 2022-2023 school year due to the constant maintenance issues she encountered while living in the school’s residential halls.

While searching for an apartment, the high rent prices impacted her decision on where to live, Upshaw said.

“Not many college students can afford thousands of dollars worth of rent, so we end up staying in these run down apartments because that’s all we can afford, ” Upshaw said.

The New Orleans city council unanimously passed a right-to-counsel ordinance in May 2022, according to the national low income housing coalition. The ordinance states that “it is the policy of the City of New Orleans that tenants facing an eviction from their home shall have right to legal representation in eviction proceedings and the City shall provide such legal representation to tenants to assist in the fair administration of justice.”

Before this ordinance was passed, only six percent of renters in New Orleans had access to attorneys in eviction court, Ciardullo said.

This ordinance is a major milestone for renters in New Orleans, and the first step to continual change within the city, Ciardullo said.