Wednesday, December 05, 2007

ENTIRELY UNRELATED HOUSING NEWS

These items are TOTALLY UNRELATED. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

There is a shortage of affordable rental units in the city of New Orleans.

More than two years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is suffering from an acute shortage of housing that has nearly doubled the cost of rental units in the city, threatening the recovery of the region and the well-being of many residents who decided to return against the odds. Before the storm, more than half of the city’s population rented housing. Yet official attention to help revive the shattered rental home and apartment market has been scant.

These items are TOTALLY UNRELATED. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

FEMA is evicting people from their trailers, they say it is time to close the parks.

According to a schedule released by the agency, all of the "group sites" will be closed by the end of May. FEMA's list of soon-to-be-shuttered parks affects about 6,400 people living at more than 50 sites.

These items are TOTALLY UNRELATED. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

The agency has been careful not to attribute park closures to concerns about formaldehyde, which has been found at dangerous levels in some trailers. In a "Frequently Asked Questions" flier released Wednesday, a question asked: "Is FEMA closing parks because of formaldehyde?" FEMA answered: "Trailers were intended as short-term housing solutions. Rental resources are increasingly available in Louisiana and are more appropriate for long-term housing."

Testing of local units was scheduled to begin this month but has been postponed. It should begin "very soon," Josephson said.

These items are TOTALLY UNRELATED. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

The organized camp of homeless people that are closer to city hall than any of us are being relocated "for their own safety."

Nagin administration officials could not be reached for comment, but in the past mayoral staffers have emphasized that they don't support emptying Duncan Plaza until housing is found for residents of the small tent city.

Jeffrey has more, though it is unrelated.

These items are TOTALLY UNRELATED. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

Demolition of public housing projects will begin on December 15th.

The Housing Authority of New Orleans on Thursday approved more than $30 million in contracts for citywide demolition of vacant brick buildings at five developments, part of its sweeping plan to transform New Orleans public housing.

Demolition will begin Dec. 15, said HANO spokesman Adonis Expose, but no specific plans were announced Thursday.

HUD announced in June that it would demolish the city's four largest developments, St. Bernard, Lafitte, C.J. Peete and B.W. Cooper to make way for "mixed income" neighborhoods.

These items are TOTALLY UNRELATED. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

Renovation has not been examined as an alternative to demolition or as a solution to the housing shortage.

Tellingly, neither housing agency has closely examined alternatives to demolition, like renovating some buildings in the complexes and replacing others. Although the Housing Authority of New Orleans says that modernizing existing developments would cost more than building new housing, it has yet to release cost breakdowns or the source of the figures. John Fernandez, an architecture professor at M.I.T. who examined all four of the complexes, has suggested that the extent of the storm’s damage has been overstated.

Because the projects were built with such sound structural integrity.

Solidly built, the buildings’ detailed brickwork, tile roofs and wrought-iron balustrades represent a level of craft more likely found on an Ivy League campus than in a contemporary public housing complex.

These items are TOTALLY UNRELATED. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

A number of organizations and individuals are planning to stage protests and trying to spread the word given the impending demolition of public housing in spite of the shortage of cheap rental units and the absence of a one-to-one resident return pledge. From New Orleans Indy Media:

To stop HUD’s bulldozers and to stymie the government/corporate ethnic cleansing machine thousands of determined anti-racists and progressives will be needed on the streets of New Orleans in December. For this to happen anti-racists and friends of the working class from all walks of life and all corners of the county will have to come to New Orleans in December.

These items are TOTALLY UNRELATED. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

SCLC pledged a boycott of New Orleans because Council is investigating corruption.


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The Times-Picayune should talk about racial bias where it is actually occurring. I don't believe "ethnic cleansing" is too strong of a phrase. Where are you on this one SCLC? (I hate you now)

The Times-Picayune should talk about racial bias where it is actually occurring. City council is "white" now and that's a big deal? This city voted by not voting.

Let me reiterate my opposition to the impending public housing demolition plans.
Let me iterate my support for the direct action protests that will attempt to block demolition.

Are New Orleans progressives united against this? Is it an outrage to YOU? If we're going to kick and scream in baited breath about our frustrations with the racially polarizing politics of this city, the way politicians use it as a wedge to divide us, we must also kick and scream and raise hell when the racism is blatantly apparent; let us use it to unite us. These are our neighbors! They deserve to live here!

This link has information about direct action protests, financial pledge options, and contact info.
Or you could believe that all of these items are indeed totally unrelated.

10 comments:

GentillyGirl said...

I am completely against demolishing Public Housing wholesale. People must be able to come home.

A staged demo program over ten years will work when dealing with the decrease of the units available will suffice. (There's no big $$$ for the developers that way. Screw 'em!)

This is a very big thing with me... I want folks to be able to return, but I also expect that those that return will step up to the plate as far as making their way in the new city. Being permanently disabled leads me to also make sure that others like myself and the elderly have safe and livable homes too.

All of the rebuilding is a drawn-out process. The process here must be sensitive to those who are impaired when it comes to economic forces. This is about honoring the Social Contract.

adpeli said...

I agree with everything you wrote, except one small caveat: I can't speak for the other three projects, but Lafitte is being rebuilt with absolute guaranteed 1 to 1 replacement for every former resident. Providence (through Catholic Charities) has offered case management services to former/future residents as well.

From what I understand, the plumbing and electrical systems were outdated to the point of useless, which would have made it considerably more expensive to renovate.

Everything else, though, including the other 3 projects: I totally agree with you. This is no accident.

E said...

I'll check up on that. Thanks for the clarification.

Pistolette said...

I know that my views on this are very different from the other local bloggers, but diversity of opinion is a good thing :-)

I have argued several times in my blog against the rebuilding of those "concentration camps" known as public housing. I simply saw them as a humanitarian disasters based on 'positive' racism - a social disaster perpetuated by the "well-meaning".

We need to socially integrate our low-income residents, not corrall and isolate them from the rest of society so we can forget about them. As for the homeless situation, unfortunately, I have no sympathy. I have numerous friends who work low-wage service industry jobs, living paycheck to paycheck, and yet manage to pool their resources with friends, get roommates, and find places to live. I think most at Duncan Plaza are homeless by choice - even the nearby homeless shelter was on WWL the other day saying they tried to get them to come in and they wouldn't budge. They are clearly there for political reasons.

Anyway, I'm always interested to hear more. I still haven't heard a perfect solution from anyone on this, but I know that if HUD would stop looking for the old public housing residents to fill their vacant units, and start offering them to the people who are here right NOW and really need them, that would be a good start.

celcus said...

I worked on a renovation a decade or more ago of one of the developments...turning mostly abandoned one and two bedroom units into four bedroom units, creating handicap accessible units, etc. so I have some knowledge of the kind of buildings we are talking about.

While there were some that were newer, and had been updated at some point. The majority cannot be reopened with a scrub down, a coat of paint and new cabinets. You have to remember, while the bones are solid, the electrical and plumbing has gone way past it's natural lifespan, and the differed maintenance on them is completely beyond the pale. Then one or two units in a building may be fine, and the rest are suffering from significant problems.

Most of the copper i.e. plumbing has already been stripped out, with walls ripped open to get at it. The existing piping is so old and fragile that A you can't change out a fixture without re-running the whole line. The electrical systems pre-date the 1980's code changes, and new fixture may be incompatible and void the UL ratings.

Most have suffered water damage from roof leaks and mold problems from being left to the elements after the storm. Again, the structure is fine, but the finish materials are trashed.

I won't even go into the issues of lead based paint and asbestos present in the existing construction. And the arrangement and layouts of the units are outdated, a preponderance of one and two bedroom units, lack of accessibility, etc.

"Re-open the units" sounds great (and some units were re-opened) but the problems to doing so on a lager scale are huge. But all of the units suffer to some degree with the problems stated above. You are looking at six months to a year, at least to clean out and update these units, and you need a contractor to do the work.

For the record, I would like to see a significant portion of the old units retained, with newer development interwoven with them. The serviceable units can be used while the rest is redeveloped, and then renovated and re-rented.

But the Federal policy, made by pols and enforced by pencil necked bureaucrats, is is to tear them down, nationally. There never really was a chance from the local perspective.

jeffrey said...

Whether we're talking about renovating or demolishing the current structures, the question that isn't being addressed is what will be done to replenish the affordable housing stock.

If the buildings need to be knocked down, then knock them down. But they need to be replaced.

The current federal policy is simply knock the buildings down and turn much of the land over to developers who then create "market-rate housing" and, in some cases, Wal-Marts.

If that isn't a "humanitarian disaster" then I don't know what is.

Karen said...

Next weeks HCDRC meeting should be interesting.

No doubt they will deny demolition and bounce it back to the Council.

E said...

Jeffrey's right.

The issue at hand is not the long term suitability of these structures. I would prefer to try the new urbanist approaches that are being developed around the country - with social integration, mixed use, etc. (see my post on philly developments)

But for now, when FEMA is evicting trailer residents, when the city is relocating the Duncan Plaza camp, when higher rental rates are making free market solutions out of reach - how else are our neighbors supposed to perceive the message being given to them?

All of these "unrelated" items, along with the demolition of the housing projects represent obvious affronts to the African American working poor.

How could they not perceive this as anything other than an eviction from New Orleans entirely?

I have lots of friends in the service industry too. They work paycheck to paycheck and have been able to find roommates and roofs. What they don't have are multiple mouths to feed, dependent extended family members, disabilities, etc.

Until residents of these developments are assured access to affordable housing (1 to 1 replacement), it is unethical to tear down the projects.

Anonymous said...

Given that we've nowhere near the population that we had pre-storm, is 1/1 actually needed?

E said...

Well maybe not.
I think there are a lot of different ways to negotiate an amicable solution to all of this. The bottom line is that there is an affordable housing crisis and a homelessness crisis. This is why there is such strong opposition to immediate demolition. If there were CONCRETE solutions in place to help people in need... the bottom line is that the city is not even close to meeting people half way.