Ex-New Orleans Mayor Calls for Innovative Housing
Former New Orleans Mayor Marc H. Morial took to the podium last night at the Harvard Graduate School of Design to call for innovation in urban and low-income housing.
Morial currently serves as president of the National Urban League, a century-old civil rights organization that supports development in underprivileged urban communities.
The former mayor advocated a comprehensive government approach to improving low-income neighborhoods.
“You can’t just build housing, you have to build neighborhoods,” said Morial.
Morial, who served as mayor from 1994 to 2002, said the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina on his own city helped expose the nation to some of the problems that surround low-income urban housing.
He said he favored tax incentives that would encourage investment in distressed urban areas and housing benefits directed at low-income public sector workers.
And in the wake of the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, Morial emphasized the need for mandatory mortgage education programs for home buyers.
But Morial also pushed for a departure from traditional housing design. Planners must strive, he said, to understand and meet the needs of the communities of the future.
“We must invest in the best policy and design practice,” he said. He added, for instance, that planning multiple family housing rather than single family homes would be more economical and could in fact better meet the needs of some low-income families.
During his own tenure as mayor, Morial reinvested in older urban neighborhoods and achieved significant reductions in crime, unemployment and poverty, ushering the city through a period of prosperity.
The lecture was “interesting, inspiring and powerful,” said Abbe H. Will, a research assistant at the Joint Center for Housing Studies who attended the talk, pointing in particular to Morial’s ideas on tax incentives for home-buyers and investors.
Organized by the Joint Center for Housing Studies and the National Housing Endowment, yesterday’s lecture is the latest in a series of annual John T. Dunlop lectures which have brought leading figures in housing policy to Harvard over the last decade. Organizer Angela K. Flynn, program and finance assistant at the Joint Center for Housing Studies, said that the lecture series is a great opportunity to bring influential figures such as Morial to Harvard.