When looking to buy your next New Orleans home, or even make improvements on your existing one, you should find out if the property lies in a historic district. The HDLC (Historic District Landmarks Commission) is the regulatory agency outside of the Vieux Carre.
What do they do exactly?
Here’s the answer from their website:
Established in 1976, this agency provides the staff and office space for the two Commissions, the New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission and the Central Business District Historic District Landmarks Commission.
The two Commissions safeguard the heritage of the City by preserving and regulating historic landmarks and historic districts which reflect elements of its cultural, social, economic, political and architectural history. They preserve and enhance the quality of neighborhoods, strengthening the City’s economic base, stimulating the tourism industry, improving property values, fostering economic development, and encouraging growth.
Why does this matter?
Because the city has either full or partial control of what you can do to the outside of your house. Living in these district requires special permits to get work exterior work done on your property.
Historic districts, under the HDLC watch, have different levels of control. These levels of regulation are determined at the time the historic district is created. The HDLC categorizes historic districts as either “Full Control” or “Partial Control.”
This doesn’t mean you should avoid buying in these neighborhoods, but you need to be aware of them.
What does “full control” mean?
In full control historic districts, the HDLC has jurisdiction over everything that is visible from the street. (This includes if they can see the back and side of your house from different angles.) All work to the exterior of a building (excluding paint color) in a Full Control district must be reviewed and approved by the HDLC prior to beginning work.
This work includes fences, gates, handrails, porch railings, new windows, and more.
Full control districts include Algiers Point, Bywater, Canal Street, Carrollton Ave., the Marigny, Holy Cross, Irish Channel, Lower Garden District, Lafayette Square, Picayune Place, St. Charles Ave., Treme (Riverside of Claiborne), and Warehouse District.
What does “partial control” mean?
Well, it actually varies. Every partial control district is a little different. Take a look:
Uptown – HDLC reviews demolition only
Parkview – HDLC reviews demolition only
Mid-City – HDLC reviews demolition only
Garden District – HDLC reviews New Construction, Demolition, and Demolition by Neglect
Carrollton – HDLC reviews demolition only except for properties fronting along Carrollton Avenue which are full control.
Esplanade Ridge – HDLC reviews Demolition and Demolition by Neglect and issues a Certificate of Review for all proposed work. Properties along Esplanade Avenue are Full Control.
Am I in a Historic District?
What should I do before living my property in a historic district?
The city of New Orleans encourages you to get a pre-sale inspection.
What if I am buying in a historic district?
We should consider the pre-sale inspection mentioned above. The violations stay with the New Orleans house, not the property owner. This could fall on you, the new homeowner, to fix.
What if I’m in the French Quarter?
This is a whole different ball game now! The Vieux Carre Commission runs the show now.
Directly from their site:
The Vieux Carré Commission (VCC) protects, preserves, and maintains the distinct architectural, historic character, and zoning integrity of the Vieux Carré as mandated by the Louisiana State Constitution, the City Charter, the City Code and the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance. This includes:
- regulating all repairs, alterations and construction that affect any building element exposed to the outside air (whether visible from the street or not) of any building situated on private property in the French Quarter. This includes carriageways, alleyway, rear buildings, etc.
- charging owners with violations of the City’s regulations to seek the correction of such infractions.
They control it all, including paint color.
Make sure you touch base with them before ever making any repairs or alterations.
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