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HUD Huffing and Puffing to Blow Down NOLA Public Housing by Christmas

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Georgianne Nienaber       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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Graphic Provided by People's Hurricane Relief (NOLA)

The ghost of hurricane Katrina is blowing through New Orleans this week as activists try to put the brakes on Housing and Urban development (HUD) plans to bulldoze thousands of low-income apartments in New Orleans. This is Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine unleashed in its full fury and there appears to be no national outrage at this blatant application of the doctrine of disaster capitalism. Bill Quigley, a white human rights attorney for the displaced and abandoned in New Orleans, writes that “Katrina has caused the worst affordable housing crisis since the Civil War.”

Despite the fact that 200,000 residents, of all colors, are still displaced, HUD is authorized to spend $762 million in US taxpayer funds to tear down 4600 public housing apartments and replace then with 744 units. Do the math. Where are the rest of the families supposed to go who occupied the 84 percent of the housing units that will not be rebuilt? This is a systematic attempt to depopulate the “gumbo” of New Orleans and replace it with a white bread facsimile of “urban development.” Where will the displaced poor live? No one seems to have answered that question, but they will not be in New Orleans, since the 1000 “market rate” apartments that are slated for construction will cost $400,000 each, according to Quigley.

On Monday, ironically Human Rights Day, a dozen activists from NOLA visited the offices of Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) in Raleigh, pleading with her to support the Gulf Coast Recovery Act (S.1668). http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s110-1668 Meanwhile, back in New Orleans, HUD is moving steadily forward to begin demolition on four public housing complexes when the number of homeless has doubled since the flood and storms.

It is two years post Katrina, and S. 1668, a bill to assist in providing affordable housing to those affected by the 2005 hurricanes, is still languishing in the halls of government. Still in the “first stages” of the legislative process, the bill has been referred to the Senate Banking, House and Urban Affairs Committee. Dole is a member of this committee, and in an unbelievable, blatant application of disaster capitalism, Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter is blocking the bill.

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What is also unbelievable is that there is no collective national outrage at what is happening in New Orleans. Louisiana is part of the United States, even though residents we spoke with, including employees in City Hall, are questioning whether Louisiana is still part of the Union. An employee there remarked that “It looks like we got lost somewhere,” while we were waiting, in vain, for a representative of Mayor Ray Nagin to meet with us. And, no, we will not give up the person’s name.

We did spend some time with Kali Akuno, of the Coalition to Stop Demolition, while we were in the NOLA area. Residents have not been allowed into these now boarded-up projects to retrieve belongings. In many cases the brick projects are in habitable condition and fared much better than other, wood frame buildings.

"In the past two years, New Orleans has faced a series of social crises that have struck a blow to our collective vision for a more just and equitable city, not simply one that is more inviting to elites. Yet none of these crises has been as uniquely urgent as this. What is at stake with the demolition of public housing in New Orleans is more than just the loss of housing units: it destroys any possibility for affordable housing in New Orleans for the foreseeable future. Without access to affordable housing, thousands of working class New Orleanians will be denied their human right to return," Akuno said in a statement.

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This is not only a human rights violation; it is a violation of international rules as stated United Nation’s position governing internally displaced persons (IDP’s). Semantics aside, it is generally agreed that any person removed from his/her homes by civil war, governance collapse, border conflicts, famine and other natural disasters, restructuring of the economy, as development "oustees," and by persecution are considered IDP’s. A cursory examination of these criteria would assign governance collapse, natural disaster, and an occult restructuring of the economy by use of the shock doctrine to apply to Katrina victims. Persecution would also seem to apply here, by any reasonable application of the definition.

Activists were thrown a sop by NOLA’s Housing Conservation District Review Committee on Monday when the committee refused to approve demolition at one of the four public housing developments that the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) wants to replace with their version of a "mixed income" neighborhood. Six members are on the committee which deadlocked on approval to demolish the Lafitte Project. Louisiana In October, 2006, there was much fanfare over Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin, broke ground at St. Louis and Galvez streets, adjacent to the Lafitte Project, of a Hollywood style film and production studio. The 300,000 square foot facility will be owned and operated by LIFT Productions.

"Prior to Hurricane Katrina, the film industry was one of the fastest- growing sectors of the region's economy. It was also one of the first sectors of our economy to come back after Katrina. This project symbolizes the industry's rebirth and commitment to the city of New Orleans," New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin said in a statement, adding that the facility would “provide the critical infrastructure that we have been lacking."

Tell that to the people who called Lafitte home.

The 3-3 vote means that HANO must go before the NOLA City Council in order to win approval to begin tearing down 76 buildings at Lafitte. The same committee approved demolition plans for 55 buildings at C.J. Peete in Central City and 88 buildings at B.W. Cooper, off Earhart Boulevard.

Housing concerns have reached far beyond crisis proportions on the Gulf Coast. Estimates are that there are still 50,000 FAMILIES living in formaldehyde spewing trailers.

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Road Home monies have still not reached the needy, despite Louisiana Recovery Authority’s press releases of “gratitude” to the feds for coughing up the funds two years after Bush stood in Jackson Square and promised immediate help. Never mind that Louisiana got the money as part of a sweetheart deal which gave Bush more money for Iraq.

There are an estimated 12,000 homeless living in NOLA, and one camp is located directly across the street from City Hall. Look under any overpass of the I-10 and you will find tents, lawn chairs and sleeping bags. T-Shirts that read “save the folks on the Gulf Coast Highways” are not historical collector items. This is real time tragedy.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill (more...)

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