Color of Change - NOLA
Anyway, here's their most current newsletter. It really is a good way to keep up on news of NOLA....
While New Orleans faces its worst housing crisis in over 100 years, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) insists on carrying out a plan to bulldoze 4,500 units of affordable public housing, much of which could be made available to residents.
If HUD is allowed to proceed, it will eliminate the majority of affordable public housing in the city1, shutting out thousands of low-income Katrina survivors who have been fighting for over two years to return home. It would be a shameful slap in the face.
Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John Edwards, and the leaders of both houses of Congress--Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid--have called on President Bush to issue a moratorium to stop the demolition. But HUD hasn't budged, even with HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson and his staff under federal investigation for corruption in their handling of the contracting for the redevelopment plan.
It's time for everyday folks to take a stand. As early as Thursday, the New Orleans City Council will vote on whether to permit HUD to carry out its demolitions. You can let them know that you expect them to reject any plan that uses federal dollars to gentrify New Orleans. And you can add your voice to the public demand that Bush hold HUD accountable and block any action until problems with the plan are addressed and the investigation of Alphonso Jackson is complete. It takes only a moment:
New Orleans Housing Crisis
With New Orleans in the middle of a serious housing emergency, it just doesn't make sense to destroy housing that's in good condition.2 Rents have gone up 45% since Katrina, the city has already lost 9,000 units of affordable housing, and half of the families that want to return home make less than $20,000 a year. In the last two years, New Orleans' homeless population has more than doubled--12,000 New Orleanians have no place to live.3
Many of the units HUD plans to destroy are in very well-constructed buildings that were barely damaged by Katrina, and would require a minimum of renovation to provide quality housing, even if only temporarily.4 Rather than addressing the pressing, immediate need for affordable housing, HUD's plan threatens to make the problem worse.
HUD's flawed redevelopment plan
Whatever your views are on public housing, HUD's redevelopment plan is ill-conceived and irresponsible. The plan calls for replacing New Orleans' current public housing with mixed-income housing, which many believe is a better model for public housing. But in making the switch, HUD refuses to rebuild the same number of affordable public housing units as it destroys. HUD's plan would destroy 4,600 affordable public housing units, while the new mixed-income housing would only include 744 units of affordable housing, and building those units will take several years.5 The inevitable result will be thousands of low-income residents--most of whom are Black--pushed out of the city.
Questions have also been raised about the motivations behind HUD's plan. The head of HUD, Alphonso Jackson, and his staff are under criminal investigation – by the FBI, Department of Justice, and HUD's inspector general -- for corruption in HUD/Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO)'s process for handing out contracts related to the redevelopment plan. The contract for demolishing and rebuilding the St. Bernard housing project was given to a firm that owes Jackson at least $250,000 (and as much as $500,000). Scott Keller – Jackson's right hand man and point person for dealing with New Orleans public housing – pushed hard for that firm to receive the contract. Investigators are also focusing on the fact that HUD/HANO paid $485,000 to one of Jackson's golfing buddies for work as a construction manager over an 18-month period.6,7
No Demolition without a solution that makes sense
At best, HUD has a goal that many think is good (moving towards mixed-income housing), but a deeply flawed plan that will be disastrous to New Orleans residents who need the most help. At worst, HUD is pushing a plan that will help enrich its secretary and his cronies, while leaving working-class people out in the cold and dramatically reshaping the class makeup of New Orleans. Either way, it would be a huge mistake to let HUD push forward with demolitions until these issues are addressed and resolved.
Tomorrow, the New Orleans City Council will decide whether it's going to allow HUD to continue down this reckless path. Council members need to hear that people across the country disapprove of HUD's plan. Will you join us in calling on the city council to reject the plan, and on President Bush to stop HUD from proceeding?
Thank You and Peace,
-- James, Van, Gabriel, Mervyn, Clarissa, and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
December 19th, 2007
1. Fewer Homes for Katrina's Poorest Victims, PolicyLink, December 2007
2. Condition of the Four New Orleans Housing Projects Slated for Demolition, Gulf Coast Fair Housing Network
3. Speaker Pelosi and Reid Urge President to Halt Demolition of Public Housing in New Orleans, The Gavel, December 15, 2007
4. See reference 2.
5. HUD Sends New Orleans Bulldozers and $400,000 Apartments for the Holidays, Common Dreams, December 3, 2007
6. HUD Probe Heats Up, National Journal, December 14, 2007
7. Questionable Contracts, National Journal, December 18, 2007
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