Selective involvement of federal government in local affairs at its finest.
HUD's Wrecking Ball
Tightening the Noose Around New Orleans
By BILL QUIGLEY
Odessa Lewis is 62 years old. When I saw her last week, she was crying because she is being evicted. A long-time resident of the Lafitte public housing apartments, since Katrina she has been locked out of her apartment and forced to live in a 240 square foot FEMA trailer. Ms. Lewis has asked repeatedly to be allowed to return to her apartment to clean and fix it up so she can move back in. She even offered to do all the work herself and with friends at no cost. The government continually refused to allow her to return. Now she is being evicted from her trailer and fears she will become homeless because there is no place for working people, especially African American working and poor people, to live in New Orleans. Ms. Lewis is a strong woman who has worked her whole life. But the stress of being locked out of her apartment, living in a FEMA trailer and the possibility of being homeless brought out the tears. Thousands of other mothers and grandmothers are in the same situation.
Renting is so hard in part because there is a noose closing around the housing opportunities of New Orleans African American renters displaced by Katrina. They have been openly and directly targeted by public and private actions designed to keep them away. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) just added their weight to the attack by approving the demolition of 2966 apartments in New Orleans.
Despite telling a federal judge for the last year and a half that approvals of public housing demolition applications take about 100 working days to evaluate, HUD approved the plan to demolish nearly 3000 apartments one day after the complete application was filed. HUD says the 3000 apartments are scheduled to be replaced in a few years with up to 744 public housing eligible apartments and a few hundred subsidized apartments....
New Orleans had a severe affordable housing crisis before Katrina when HANO housed over 5000 families. There was a waiting list of 8000 families trying to get in. HUD and HANO together did such a poor job of administering the agency that there were about 2000 more empty apartments that had been scheduled for major repairs for years.
The continuing deceptions by HUD and HANO have been shameless. Since Katrina, HUD has continued to act out both sides of a charade that the local housing authority is making decisions and HUD is waiting on local actions. Yet, the decision to demolish was announced by the Secretary of HUD in DC over a year ago. But in the year since then, HUD has continued to tell a federal judge that any legal challenge to demolitions was premature because HANO had not even submitted an application to HUD for their careful 100 day evaluation. This is while a HUD employee runs the agency, commuting back and forth to DC each week. HANO even announced they would have 2000 apartments ready for people in August of 2006--a deadline not met even in September 2007. HANO later announced to the public that they had a list of 250 apartments ready for people to return only to admit in writing weeks later that no such list existed--nor were the phantom apartments ready.
The list of untruths goes on.
HUD would not agree to delay the demolition of the 3000 apartments until Congress finished reviewing legislation that would give residents the right to return and participate in the process of determining what kind of affordable housing should be in place in New Orleans.