Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at New Orleans Habitat
Everyone deserves a home. This idea is the heart of everything New Orleans Habitat does. Whether it is building new homes or home repair with partner families or selling affordable building materials through the ReStores, what Habitat does centers on making housing available to everyone. The path to homeownership is not easy, and unfortunately, the path is made even more difficult because of discrimination both past and present in the real estate, construction, and mortgage industries.
The legacy of discrimination in housing cannot be ignored. For many years, laws restricted where Black people, immigrants, and others could live through laws and policies known as redlining. Because of this, many people of color still live in low- to moderate-income (LMI) parts of the city. Gender discrimination and harassment have made it difficult for women to find the housing they need, and a consequence of marriage inequality in the past was that same-sex couples were limited in how they could apply for home loans. And even today, disabled people are often denied access to housing both literally and figuratively.
Discrimination in housing means denial of access to generational wealth, home equity, and self-reliance. Generational wealth in the form of a home can often help families end the cycle of poverty by providing stability to the next generation that allows for better grades, better schools, better access to nutritious food, and more. Housing is fundamental, and discrimination has denied that fundamental resource to Black, brown, and indigenous people, to immigrants, to the formerly incarcerated, to women, to LGBTQ people, and to the disabled.
Habitat is proud to be an Equal Opportunity Housing Lender. The First-Time Homebuyers Program contradicts the effects of redlining and other discriminatory practices, but more can be done. This summer, NOAHH started an ongoing process of evaluating current policies and practices in order to make them more equitable, to encourage diversity and inclusion, and to make the affiliate better at fighting the injustices that make affordable housing so urgent.
Though this process is still in the beginning stages, already the affiliate has found new ways to recruit staff, including our Harbor Freight interns and other local programs; removed unnecessary requirements for hiring that limited access to jobs; begun intentionally seeking out more diversity among the staff and board and will be engaging a consultant to help identify better ways to be more inclusive and equitable. NOAHH will embark on an internal review as a first step on our journey to improve. NOAHH’s guidelines, policies, and communications will be reviewed with an eye toward inclusiveness, and Habitat’s commitment to housing will continue with ongoing evaluations and improvements.