WHERE DID ALL THE PEOPLE GO?
NO Projects attempts to shed light on the state of New Orleans Housing Projects post Katrina, and more importantly since the HOPE VI Program.
Before Katrina there were 7 projects up and running, housing tens of thousands of people. Just ten years prior, there were 9 projects in Orleans Parish alone. Today there is one project still standing in it's original form and in use. All 6 other projects have been demolished in the past five years. Because most of these buildings were built in the old fashioned durable brick barrack style fashion, few of the Uptown projects suffered serious damage from Katrina. Like every building in the city, each had flooding on the first floor, issues with mold, and minor wind damage; but on the whole, the Uptown projects were some of the few buildings to come out of the storm with very little harm. However, the local government claimed that the damage was too great for repairs. As such, six projects were razed, with plans for redevelopment.
This is problematic for two reasons, 1, this left tens of thousands of New Orleans residents completely displaced, forced to live outside the city with Section 8 housing vouchers, unable to retrieve their belongings from government owned property and with no place to go close to home. 2, the plans for redevelopment for all 6 of the demolished projects involved crossing over from public housing to mixed income housing developments. By changing these large structures to a more beautiful neighborhood like mixed income housing development, the contractors immediately erase the majority of the public housing spots. First by creating structures that house fewer units, and then by only allowing a certain number of units to house tenants that are public housing recipients.
This change from public housing projects to mixed income housing developments should be a positive change, as it fosters upward mobility and has been proven to cut back on crime. However, by destroying thousands of people's homes and replacing them with new structures (most of which do not guarantee previous residents a spot) they are kicking people out of their homes and due to the housing shortage, out of New Orleans. Thus, leaving thousands entirely displace and left to fend for themselves with housing vouchers in foreign communities without the aid of family and friends nearby.
The redevelopment public housing projects should guaranteed a 1 to 1 replacement of public housing spots, but that is not the case. This website investigates and shares the numbers of public housing units before and after the storm and the HOPE VI program.
- According to The Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO), which controls all public housing in the greater metropolitan area, prior to Hurricane Katrina HANO serviced 14,000families (49,000 residents). 5,100 occupied public housing, and 9,000 families received Section 8 vouchers.(1) See for yourself with this link: http://www.hano.org/FAQ.pdf
-On June 27, 2006, a class action law suit was filed by displaced residents of New Orleans public housing to challenge the plan of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to reduce the number of public housing units in the city from 5,100before Hurricane Katrina to only 2,000 units. (2)
-The New Orleans city council voted unanimously on December 20, 2007 to allow HUD to destroy 4,500 units of low-income housing, leaving only 600 public housing units. HUD plans to replace the units with mixed-income housing. The city council voted despite the arguments at the council meeting by residents who said that HUD's plan would not provide enough housing for the 5,100 families that occupied public housing projects before Hurricane Katrina.(3)
WHERE DID ALL THE PEOPLE GO?
So with all those units demolished you have to ask, "Where did all the people go?"
Katrina displaced 700,000 residents, and a year later 360,000 residents were still displaced. According to the American Redcross estimated approximately 275,000 homes were destroyed in Louisiana. (7) It is unclear whether housing projects were even included in that number, considering the fact that most of the projects suffered very minimal damage from the storm. With such extreme housing shortages the price of housing sky rocketed, making even housing destitute housing too expensive for a working class individual, let alone an unemployed resident.
Some of these residents were granted FEMA trailers, but most were not. Those who were fortunate enough to receive a trailer were only granted it for a short period of time and then left to find housing on their own.
With little to no affordable housing available many have to turn to the streets. In 2008 1 in 25 New Orleans residents were homeless. With an estimated 12,000 homeless people and a population of 302,000, homelessness accounts for 4% of the population. The number is double the pre-Katrina homeless count, which was 6,300. (4)
In 2009 the number had only dropped to 11,500. (5)
In 2010, the UNITY collaborative of 63 organizations provided housing and/or services to21,585 homeless persons in New Orleans and Jeffreson Parish, more than double the number of clients served annually prior to Hurricane Katrina. (6)
Many of these people resort to squatting in abandoned houses, left vacant after the storm. These houses are extremely dangerous, filled with mold and toxic debris, some with structures that can give out at any moment.