Dispute Over New Orleans Low-Income Housing Intensifies

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there are growing disputes over housing for lower-income residents and the future makeup of New Orleans. Displaced residents of public housing projects fear that local and federal officials, along with real estate developers, are using the storm damage as an excuse to get rid of much public housing and to bring in wealthier residents instead.

Many public services for the poor, including hospitals, transportation, and the public defender system, remain unavailable.

By June 2006, city and federal housing officials had re-opened only about 1,000 of more than 8,000 public housing units, even as New Orleans suffers from an intense housing crisis. The city insists that most apartments are uninhabitable. At the same time, however, private homeowners have been encouraged to return to the same areas of the city.

Real estate developers have been pushing to transform public housing into more lucrative higher-income units. Politicians aligned with these interests regard Hurricane Katrina as a godsend. Representative Richard Baker of Baton Rouge was quoted right after the storm as saying: “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it. But God did.”

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development announced in mid-June that more than 5,000 public apartments for the poor are to be demolished and replaced by housing for residents with a higher range of incomes. Hundreds of former residents set up a tent city demanding the right to return.

Susan Saulny, “5,000 Public Housing Units in New Orleans Are to Be Razed,” New York Times, 15 June 2006.
Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/15/us/15housing.html, and
Susan Saulny, “Residents Clamoring to Come Home to Projects in New Orleans,” New York Times, 6 June 2006.
Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/15/us/15housing.html.