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Senior apartment regulations approved in New Orleans following Ida deaths; see new rules

Courtesy of Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer

After hundreds were left without power and five seniors died in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, New Orleans City Council voted unanimously Thursday to adopt a new set of requirements for senior residential facilities.

The measure will require a license for any housing facility with six or more units designated for people with a disability or for people 55 years of age or older. The license demands facilities to have a generator with enough capacity to power the building and its heating and cooling systems and a working census for residents before and during an emergency. The measure go into effect mid-November.

Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who authored the measure, said that residents at the Algiers Renaissance Towers were left without management on site after Ida hit, and “because there was no management on site, there was no master key. There was no list of what residents were there and what residents were not there.”

The New Orleans Fire Department was then tasked with a door-to-door check throughout the nine floors. Palmer said it wasn’t a thoughtful approach and used more resources than it should have.

“People were pretty much just left as disposable citizens,” said Palmer.

After Ida, the long power outages caused many to experience excessive heat without air conditioning, which resulted in 13 of the 29 storm-related deaths in Louisiana. All 13 reported deaths were over 63 years of age.

In her opening remarks, Palmer thanked several people in attendance in the meeting and council member Jay Banks, who she saw showing up to care facilities to volunteer and aide residents.

“For me, this is more of a moral issue than it is a legal one,” Jay Banks said. “We should make every effort that no family ever has to experience this again.”

Palmer said that the measure was not a condemnation of the entire housing network, as she knew many made sacrifices during the storm, but the action will create a notification for the health department that gives them more knowledge of where the most vulnerable citizens are during emergencies.

Dr. Jennifer Avegno, the city's director of health, also said that the measure “is not intended to point fingers or to put an undue, onerous burden on property owners or managers.”

Avegno said the purpose of the measure is to “establish a partnership between the city and those property owners and managers to ensure that for everyone we have clear lines of communication established well in advance of the next disaster.”

Copyright 2021 WWNO - New Orleans Public Radio

Ryan Nelsen