1. On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans causing the breach of several levees and the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of residents. Of the 354,045 residents who lived in damaged areas of New Orleans, 75 percent were African-American and more than 29 percent were poor.
Almost ten months later, a majority of these residents remain displaced. Most residents cannot return because of a shortage of housing due to a loss of approximately half of all rental housing and an increase in demand; since the storm, rental rates have increased 25-30% in New Orleans. Despite this massive shortage of housing, particularly affordable housing, the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) has taken virtually no steps to repair housing units that could bring back many of the 5,146 displaced, predominantly African-American families that resided in public housing. Instead of moving quickly to re-open habitable units and make repairs where necessary, for the most part, HANO boarded up units. Most recently, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) made clear that these families would not be able to return anytime soon when it announced its plan to demolish 5,000 public housing units.
2. By failing to reopen housing units that were undamaged by Hurricane Katrina, failing to repair other units, and declaring that most of the existing public housing stock in New Orleans would be demolished, HANO and HUD (Defendants) are violating their obligation to provide non-discriminatory access to safe, affordable housing for low-income families and breaching their contractual commitments and statutory obligations to public housing residents of New Orleans. Their actions and inactions will instead effectively exclude thousands of low-income African-American families from the city. Further, Defendant HUD has failed to meet its obligations to preserve, to the extent possible, all public housing in areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina or Rita. 1 JOHN LOGAN, THE IMPACT OF RACE AND CLASS IN STORM DAMAGED NEIGHBORHOODS 7,15 (2006), available at www.s4.brown.edu/Katrina/report.pdf.
3. This action is brought on behalf of the class of individual African-Americans who, before Hurricane Katrina, resided in public housing (“Plaintiffs”) managed by Defendants. As a result of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, Plaintiffs were displaced from their public housing units and currently reside elsewhere or have returned or attempted to return to their public housing unit with or without Defendants’ authorization. Plaintiffs want to return to their homes and to New Orleans.
4. For many years, Defendants have squeezed low-income African-American families out of public housing in New Orleans by reducing the number of public housing units from over 13,000 to approximately 7,000. Their post-Hurricane Katrina actions have exacerbated that improper conduct.
7. On Sept. 29, 2005, Secretary Jackson, who is charged with the development of a public housing plan for New Orleans and for not only enforcement of fair housing opportunities but also furthering fair housing in the use of federal funds, stated that post-Katrina New Orleans “is not going to be as black as it was for a long time, if ever again.”3 On April 24, 2006, Defendant Jackson further stated that “[o]nly the best [public housing] residents should return. Those who paid rent on time, those who held a job and those who worked.”4
3 Becky Bowman et al., Hurricane Rita: The Aftermath; Population Shift,” THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE, Sept. 29, 2005. at B1. 4 Bill Walsh, Official blunt on Public Housing, THE TIMES PICAYUNE, Apr. 25, 2006, available at http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/frontpage/index.ssf?/base/news-5/1145947501313590.xml 5 Martin Savidge, What’s next for Public Housing in New Orleans?, available at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11485681/ 6 Charles Babington, Some GOP Legislators Hit Jarring Notes in Addressing Katrina, THE WASHINGTON POST, Sept. 10, 2005, at A04, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2005/09/09/AR2005090901930.html
These photos were taken on April 22, 2007 at the Lafitte Housing Project named in the above lawsuit.
Every unit was empty.
The buildings were clearly in better shape then the C. J. Peete Housing units.
Yet these units were all empty. And these are only a "few" pictures of all the empty affordable housing.
Where are all the families that once lived here?
How are they faIring right now?
Some are housed in FEMA trailers nearby.