NOLA’s Most Important Buildings in a Generation

An official view and update on the public housing battle in NOLA from the Washington Post this morning.  At this meeting, my friend Rachel thought she saw tears from C. Donald Babers, the federally-appointed administrator in charge of HANO (Housing Authority of NO).  The Post presents him in a much colder light:

“C. Donald Babers, the federally appointed administrator running the Housing Authority of New Orleans, did not respond to that question in tersely approving the demolitions…The meeting, the last of a series of required “consultation meetings” with residents, appeared to be a formality. Babers thanked each person for his or her comments but made none himself. Nor did he answer any of the questions put to him. Residents called the process a sham.”

As you know, I agree, and I can hear long-time resident Stephanie Mingo’s comments as re-printed here:

“You are hurting people. You are killing people,” she said. “I don’t know how y’all can sleep at night.”

This article – like so many – brings up the sordid history of mixed-income in New Orleans, reminding us of the failure in redeveloping St. Thomas into River Garden to preserve housing for low-income families.

They point to the former St. Thomas project in the city:

“which was originally designed to house approximately 1,500 families. Its demolition, in 2002, has been followed by the construction of 296 apartments, 122 of them for low-income families. When the project is completed, it is supposed to have 1,100 new residential units, but critics say far too few of the poor displaced by the demolition will ever be able to live there.”

More instructive of the post-Katrina affordable housing climate is this article from yesterday’s Time-Pic, describing one former St. Thomas resident’s attempt to get into an River Garden apartment set aside for her prior to Katrina.  Turns out HANO employees were now living there:

“The apartment had been rented to someone else…in violation of a 2003 contract between public housing residents and HUD…leaving Corner out in the cold until lawyers were able to get her an appearance before a federal judge. Corner had all the documents she needed and clearly qualified for River Garden, her attorneys and the court documents have shown.

HANO and River Garden, which is managed by Historic Restoration Inc., leased 44 of 63 apartments reserved for public housing residents to HANO employees after last year’s hurricane season. While HANO employees found refuge at the newly constructed apartments, Corner and other public housing residents were forced to sleep in less comfortable digs.”

One thing I just learned from these articles was that despite being only 50% full (~5,000 units), NO public housing had a waiting list of 8,250 names.  So in reality, the relative loss of affordable housing in NO is much greater than I realized.

I’ll leave you with this quote from State Rep. Cedric Richmond (D) about the “underlying logic of the new developments” that pins “residents’ misery on the concentration of poverty in New Orleans:”

“It was always concentrated. Because you can’t get people to make beds and clean hotels if you educate them well and they expect a decent pay.”


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