Tuesday, April 24, 2007

WELCOME BACK?

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA:

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.

5. After Hurricane Katrina, Defendant HANO conducted surveys of public housing residents. It reported that of those surveyed, 60 percent of residents intend to return. Pre-Katrina, more than 5,100 families resided in New Orleans’ public housing developments, yet Defendants intend to reopen only approximately 2,000 apartments. To date, only about 880 families have been permitted to return. Most will be unable to do so. Plaintiffs, who have been unable to return to their units, linger in uncertainty about the fate of their homes and their lives. As a result of defendants’ actions, many low-income families, who are disproportionately African American, have been prohibited from returning to their homes or have returned and are living in their units in substandard conditions.

6. Public statements of Defendant Alphonso Jackson, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other elected officials suggest defendants’ inaction and needless delay in repairing and reopening New Orleans public housing development are based on racial animus and a clear intention to prohibit the return of many low-income African-American families.

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

8. Other public officials have followed Secretary Jackson’s lead. On February 20, 2006, New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas stated “[w]e don’t need soap opera watchers all day,” and that if displaced residents want to come back and want to live in public housing, they better want to work.5 Further, after the hurricane Louisiana Congressman Richard Baker (R-LA) said, “[w]e finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.”6

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

9. After Hurricane Katrina, Defendants suggested that many public housing units were salvageable by reporting their intent to clean and repair units at the following public housing developments: Iberville, C.J. Peete, B.W. Cooper, and Lafitte. Public housing residents continued to hope for the best as Defendants delayed the promised clean up and repair efforts. Plaintiffs’ fears, however, became reality when on June 14, 2006, Defendant HUD announced that it would demolish more than 5,000 public housing apartments—the St. Bernard, C. J. Peete, B. W. Cooper and Lafitte housing developments—and replace them with mixed-income developments. The demolition, scheduled to begin over the next several months, would be the largest demolition in the City’s history.7 It would effectively deprive thousands of public housing families of the ability to return to New Orleans, without hearing, input, or any due process protection.

13. As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ discriminatory policies and practices, Plaintiffs have suffered, and in the future will continue to suffer, economic loss, humiliation, embarrassment, and emotional distress. Plaintiffs and the class members who they seek to represent bring claims against Defendants to require that they allow Plaintiffs to return to apartments that sustained little or no damage, repair public housing developments as soon as practicable, and permit residents to return to their public housing unit and rebuild their lives.



Read the document:



YOU DECIDE...


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.

In Peace.


U.S. Government Created the Rise in Homelessness:

Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS)

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