Housing Development and Abandonment in New Orleans

Allison Plyer Elaine Ortiz Ben Horwitz

Published: Oct 28, 2011


Since 1960, households have moved away from New Orleans’ historic center and toward suburban–style developments within the city limits and outside the city limits.

  • Between 1960 and 1980, historic New Orleans neighborhoods lost thousands of households and housing demolitions surged as households moved to newer neighborhoods near the lake and predominantly to New Orleans East.
  • Through the oil bust of the 1980s and the sluggish recovery of the 1990s, only the very newest subdivisions in New Orleans East and the west bank gained households while the vacancy rate soared in the rest of the city and thousands of households moved away. However, several historic neighborhoods — particularly the Central Business District and Warehouse District — began to resurge during the 1990s.
  • Between 2000 and 2010, the levee failures caused the first ever net loss of households in New Orleans East, and the citywide vacancy rate doubled to 25 percent. Even in the higher–elevated “sliver by the river’” the vast majority of neighborhoods lost households and experienced increased abandonment, including Black Pearl, Bywater, East Carrollton, East Riverside, Irish Channel, Touro, Uptown, and West Riverside. African American headed households, elderly, and families with children were the most likely to leave these neighborhoods. However, the Central Business District and Warehouse District continued to grow– attracting predominantly renters, single persons, and households without children.
  • Suburban parishes in the New Orleans metro have received large influxes of city residents since 1960, and yet, because of post–Katrina losses in Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes, the suburban metro parishes had roughly the same number of households in 2010 they had in 2000.
  • The post–Katrina loss of households in nearby parishes as well as within New Orleans’ historic neighborhoods suggests that as New Orleans looks to reduce blight and preserve historic architecture, we must place just as much emphasis on retaining current residents as we place on attracting new ones.