This one is real ugly.
Some New Orleans officials are floating June 1st as a potential deadline for people to vacate all FEMA trailers in Orleans Parish.
The article uses an estimate of 7,200 trailers in New Orleans. That's got to be 15 to 25 thousand people.
Certainly, people need to move out of FEMA trailers. They're contaminated by dangerous formaldehyde exposure and are not safe.
FEMA, after a few years of refusing to conduct tests, has finally admitted that there are significant health risks in the trailers and is moving ever so slowly to get people into safer housing.
Any trailer resident relocation plan is extremely complicated, as Mayor Nagin of all people has expressed. His accurate argument, though he doesn't have the credibility to make it, is that FEMA's relocation plans will result in another massive displacement of Gulf Coast residents because there is not enough affordable housing here in the city to accommodate another several thousand apartment hunters.
(Now of course Mayor Nagin is a hypocrite on the issue because he has ignored the existence of the affordable housing crisis during relevant debates that have occurred here municipally. see: public housing demolitions, homelessness. Try as valiantly as possible to ignore that inconvenient truth and focus instead on the fact that we do indeed have an affordable housing crisis in this city)
In other extremely related news, city officials again cited the affordable housing crisis as a major contributing factor behind the low census estimates that could cost the city millions in federal funding:
City Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell said she suspects that the Census Bureau also failed to take into account what she called "double-up" and "triple-up" households where two and three families have been forced to live under the same roof while storm repairs drag on.
Please keep the above context in mind as you read the following passage that I will now paste from today's related article on the potential city-imposed trailer closeout deadline:
With FEMA working toward a goal of relocating all those residents by summer, the city deadline would target people who simply don't want to leave or are living in trailers illegally, [Councilwoman Stacy] Head said. She estimated that as much as 30 percent of the city's trailer stock currently is being rented, a violation of federal law, or occupied by squatters.
"At what point are we going to say New Orleans is not a place where you can live in a trailer as a lifestyle choice?" she said.ARE YOU KIDDING ME? A LIFESTYLE CHOICE?
I want to explode.
Let's say that your estimate that 30% of Orleans Parish trailers are being illegally rented is accurate. That is about 2,500 trailers. For maybe 5,000-10,000 people.
You think that's a lifestyle choice?
You think people are happily getting fat in one room cancer boxes that they share with family?
A lifestyle choice?
It's cool to live in a FEMA trailer?
It's a status symbol?
Councilwoman Head, this is the most vile, out of touch statement you've ever made.
People are living in FEMA trailers because they have to. They're renting FEMA trailers or living in their own because WE HAVE AN AFFORDABLE HOUSING CRISIS IN THIS CITY.
Rents are still extremely high. Road Home money still flows at a trickle. Funding for new affordable housing units are in peril.
Thousands upon thousands of our neighbors still live in FEMA trailers, I doubt they're loving it.
Councilwoman Head, why don't you come up with an actual plan to help find affordable housing for the thousands of families forced to illegally rent poisonous one-room trailers?
Recover Director Ed Blakely, the other callous official from this story also comes off looking like an absolute fool just from an unedited Times-Picayune passage:
Most people still living in trailers are older than 50 and are caught in financial limbo: even with Road Home and insurance payments, they can't afford to rebuild their homes, he said.
Blakely said the city has been "putting together some lending programs to assist people with that gap."
But those programs will not be available before June.
Those seniors in financial limbo that FEMA formaldehyde trailers are slowly poisoning sure are making a lifestyle choice...
I've never been a huge fan of Councilwoman Head. I certainly have criticized her stance on public housing, which I find to be rife with conflicts of interest. But I never before thought she was a bad person. I've been appreciative of some of her efforts leading the charge to secure former DA Eddie Jordan's resignation an in other matters of ethics reform, etc. By all accounts I've heard, she's been way more responsive to the inquires of her district's residents than her predecessors.
This however, is unacceptable. Her assertion that the thousands of our neighbors stuck in FEMA trailers are making a "lifestyle choice" is not only ludicrous, it is mean-spirited and divisive.
I'd like to see a contrite apology and then I'd like to see your plan to increase the availability of affordable housing or your plan to reduce rent rates.
That's how you might start to get rid of the trailers.
As for Blakely... What is it that ya do here?