Sunday, December 16, 2007


From the Times-Picayune headlines - Sunday December 16, 2007 edition:

Lost in the debate about the demolition
of N.O. housing developments is one fact:
There are hundreds of units available right now


"Nobody is going homeless over this."

David Jackson, HANO spokesman (as quoted in the TP article - on the demolition of 4500 public housing units)

Here are a few other "facts" to contemplate:

There are thousands who are displaced that were NOT in the public housing system "pre-katrina." This creatively crafted "fact" that "Nobody is going homeless over this", presented by the HANO spokesman David Jackson, does not include the thousands of displaced previous 'renters', family members and friends who lived with homeowners, the displaced mentally ill, and the previous and newly homeless, who cannot afford to pay the new higher rents, since Katrina and the levee failures. Many of the still viable public housing buildings could be used to house the 12 thousand* that are now estimated to be homeless. (*Unity for the Homeless)

In terms of the very narrow perspective of David Jackson, the HANO spokesperson - there is a core of truth in the way he is "basing" the reality of his statements. And if you weren't somehow directly/indirectly involved and observing what is going on, this core of truth, presented as the whole "fact", as reported by the Times-Picayune, is highly believable.

Currently occupied homes and money earmarked so far for redevelopment will restore just over one-third (4,538) of the pre-Katrina units serving the lowest income households. No comprehensive plan or resources to address the remainder of the loss has been put forward.*
*Of the 12,000 units, 9,891 were occupied pre-Katrina, and just over 2,000 were closed for redevelopment. Current resources will cover restoring almost half of the occupied units.

"The Surge in Rents and the Squeezing of Rental Market
Leave Poorest Without Options"

This significant cut in subsidized housing is occurring alongside a tremendous loss of private-market rental housing—across the entire income spectrum.

In New Orleans, 51,700 rental units were seriously damaged or destroyed by the 2005 hurricanes. Rents in many parts of the city have since doubled, with once common affordable rentals now virtually impossible to find.

Federal recovery programs are projected to restore only 43 percent of the city’s total rental losses (from extremely low income public housing to market rate rentals).

The demolitions of New Orleans public housing before making sure everyone who is in need of housing is housed, especially the homeless; is only one of many very complicated social, ideological, and political endeavors which are being enacted before everyone can fully "catch up" with what is really going on and the prevailing agenda of those in power (government and business). 'Catching up' is needed when hundreds of thousands of people are affected by the trauma of being in a natural disaster of the scale of the Katrina related levee failures - which included the flooding of their homes, their business', and the public infrastructure. It takes time for individuals and communities to readjust, get their lives together, rebuild homes, raise families and go to work daily before many who were involved in the disaster are able to pay more attention to and participate in, the democratic processes happening at the city-wide level. For many of the working poor and the poor residents of New Orleans, the finding of a dignified quality of life has been near impossible as they try to re-establish themselves in the brand New Orlean$.

"The government has not made available coherent statistics or a central database of those displaced by Hurricane Katrina." (Wow. Sound familar? Non-existent statistics giving a number of civilians killed in Iraq?) NEW ORLEANS IN NUMBERS: A Pre- and Post-Hurricane Katrina Snapshot

"I don't know that people are aware of the homeless crisis we are experiencing in New Orleans post-Katrina. It's grown tremendously, and it's getting worse every day." (This quote is from 2006! Imagine how much worse it has gotten!) Institue for Progressive Studies

"Many of New Orleans' problems predated the storm: widespread poverty, a failing public education system, low wages, and a weak tax base. Urban Institute researchers have studied these urban blights for nearly 40 years and knew what to reinforce when the storms of September 2005 compounded the old problems and swept in some new."

Affordable Housing in Healthy Neighborhoods: Critical Policy Challenges Facing the Greater New Orleans Region
Statement Before the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services
Margery Austin Turner, Susan J. Popkin

New Orleans urgently needs to rebuild affordable rental housing in order to recover fully and fairly. Like most cities across the country, New Orleans already had an affordable housing crisis before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Almost a quarter of the city's residents had incomes below the federal poverty level and about two of every three households were renters. More than half of very low income households bore severe housing cost burdens—paying over half their monthly income for housing.1 And only a small proportion of needy households received federal housing assistance.

The Need for Affordable Rental Housing

Affordable housing needs are even more severe today, particularly for renters. More than half the city's rental housing stock was damaged or destroyed, and rents for the remaining units have risen substantially. Many low-income families who were struggling before they were displaced by the storm have been unable to return to the city because they cannot find an affordable place to live. And those who do return are likely to face severe hardship. (Popkin, Turner, and Burt 2006).

Federal, state, and local officials have all expressed a commitment to the safe return and a better future for displaced residents. But without affordable housing options, these commitments cannot be fulfilled, and the redevelopment of New Orleans will be stunted and inequitable.

"It will exclude a substantial share of the city's long-time residents, many of whom are African American. " (emphasis added)

The absence of a major segment of the workforce will undermine the recovery of the region's economy. Key workers, including those involved in providing health care, child care, and public education may not be able to return, limiting the availability of services that everyone depends upon for a decent quality of life. And the vitality of New Orleans will be eroded by the absence of families and individuals who played key roles in creating and sustaining the region's unique music, art, and cultural traditions (Turner 2006).

86% of pre-Katrina population is back
Posted by The Times-Picayune October 23, 2007 9:15PM
John Pope Staff Writer
(I suggest reading the comments of the locals in response to the claims of this survey.)

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