The Louisiana Chapter of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) hosted the Emerging Trends in Real Estate Summit 2024 at the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans on February 23, 2024. Key local leaders in the industry provided insights on the overall health of the real estate market in the Greater New Orleans area and thoughts on what the future holds.

Strategies in Affordable Housing

Moderator: Michael Meredith, Verius Property Group

Panelists: Nicole Barnes, Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative; Oji Alexander, People’s Housing+; and Jonathan Leit, Alembic Community Development

The Strategies in Affordable Housing panelists agreed: the City of New Orleans has an affordable housing crisis. The problem, however, is actively being addressed, especially in the disadvantaged, predominately African American neighborhoods of New Orleans. 

In November of 2023, the New Orleans City Council voted to create a housing trust fund with the intent of stream-lining millions of dollars from the city budget to community partners for the construction of affordable housing. The panelists believe that the housing trust should help alleviate the on-going crisis for affordable housing.

When asked what else would need to happen in order to improve access to affordable housing for New Orleans’ residents, they also concurred that the cost of insurance must go down. Jonathan Leit said that the cost of insurance premiums alone had killed deals he was working to push through, and some of his current projects have had to finance their premiums at high rates just to meet the obligations of the loan agreements. 

Upshot: Despite the shortage of available inventory and high insurance costs, affordable housing in the city has a brighter future ahead. More public dollars are en route to address the issue, and public opinion is swaying towards “fighting the good fight.”

Financing Projects in Exacting Times

Moderator: Cullan Maumas, New Orleans Redevelopment Fund

Panelists: Annie Clark, Finance New Orleans: Carol Friedland, LaHouse Research and Education Center – LSU; Jarrett Cohen, JECohen & Co.

Each panelist had a vastly different background, which contributed to a vibrant and genteel conversation about funding development projects.

Annie Clark has extensive experience in public funding. She spoke about the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program and how those credits are vital to affordable housing developments.

Carol Friedland explained the ins and outs of the FORTIFIED building standards and regulations to the attendees. Her message: if new construction and rehabilitation projects adhere to the FORTIFIED standards, insurers are required to reduce the premium charges on their policies to property owners. In Louisiana, homeowners who build to FORTIFIED standards are seeing 25% to 30% reductions in their annual premiums, which year-over-year, amounts to lucrative cost savings. Reduced insurance costs are not the only benefit of the FORTIFIED standards; they also provide greater protection against the elements and storms, which is vitally important for properties located in South Louisiana.

Jarrett Cohen operates an investment fund that has substantial real estate holdings in the New Orleans area. He sung a different tune about interest rates and insurance costs. Under Cohen’s business model, he leases his real estate space out to national commercial outfits on a triple-net basis, thereby passing off taxes, insurance and maintenance costs to the tenant. He pointed to New Orleans historically strong tourist-based economy as the chief reason for national tenants wanting space in this market. “If they want to be here, they’ll pay,” he said in reference to the triple-net model he relies upon to pass down insurance costs to the tenants occupying his company’s real estate.

Filed under: Commercial Real Estate, Industry News, Leases, Residential Real Estate
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