Council simplifies reuse for some vacant properties

This news brief appeared in the March issue of PRC’s Preservation in Print magazine. Interested in getting more preservation stories like this delivered to your door nine times a year? Become a member of the PRC for a subscription!

The New Orleans City Council has approved changes to the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance intended to facilitate the reuse of empty two-, three- and four-unit residential buildings where current zoning does not allow multi-family construction. In many older neighborhoods, small apartments were built decades before zoning restrictions limited residential construction to singles or doubles. Until now, owners of some vacant multi-family dwellings were deterred from returning them to occupancy by a costly and time-consuming process.

Finalized in January after a back-and-forth process with the City Planning Commission that lasted several months, the changes allow the re-occupancy of smaller “established multifamily” dwellings without a conditional use permit provided no changes are made to the building footprint.

Conditional use permits, which entail filing fees, architectural drawings and a public hearing, are still required for vacant structures with five or more residential units. Owners of multi-family buildings that have not been vacant more than 180 days may follow a simplified bureaucratic path to “grandfathered” status by requesting a legal nonconforming use determination.

Nathan Lott is PRC’s Advocacy Coordinator & Public Policy Research Director.