19
Feb
07

The Latest on New Orleans’s Public Housing Fight

The housing subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee will meet this Thurs and Fri (2/22-23) in New Orleans; the fate of the city’s public housing is on the agenda. Here’s some of the latest that’s been going on:

– Federal court ruled the residents’ case must go to trial;

Bush met with the (liberal and Democratic) Congressional Black Caucus (only his second meeting with them since 2005) on Thursday to discuss Gulf Coast rebuilding (among Iraq and other topics);

– House Democrats aimed to make $500M available for rental housing in the Gulf Coast and postpone the demolition of public housing until “alternatives are identified”;

– LA Governor Blanco urges HUD to re-open public housing for use as temporary worker housing (note: this is not necessarily the same as supporting the residents’ lawsuit).

The New Orleans Tribune, the community newspaper of the city’s African-American middle-class, has devoted their Jan/Feb 2007 issue to the public housing conflict. Some of the articles – such as the NYT’sAll Fall Down” from November 2006 – have been published elsewhere, and some is original writing from the city leaders and residents. For those of you who can’t make it to the museum directly, the issue conveniently features the NYT’s photo exhibit of New Orleans public housing currently on display at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

My favorite though, in a lengthy article by Bill Quigley, a lawyer and community activist representing the residents, is a telling quote from MIT’s own John Fernandez regarding his findings after inspecting 140 units in the developments (Fernandez, an architect and professor of building technologies, is an expert witness for the residents’ case):

“no structural or nonstructural damage was found that could reasonably warrant any cost-effective building demolition… Therefore, the general conclusions are: demolition of any of the buildings of these four projects is not supported by the evidence of the survey, replacement of these buildings with contemporary construction would yield buildings of lower quality and shorter lifetime duration; the original construction methods and materials of these projects are far superior in their resistance to hurricane conditions than typical new construction and with renovation and regular maintenance, the lifetimes of the buildings in all four projects promise decades of continued service that may be extended indefinitely.�

The article goes on to describe other documentation that challenges HUD’s claims on the necessity, efficiency and purpose of the demolition plans.

Meanwhile, I pulled a deleterious all nighter last week during my first push at a dissertation proposal that will trace this fight. But stay tuned for details; I’ve already been warned about flinging my original and captivating ideas all over the blogosphere. Why not check out my post on the airline passengers’ bill of rights in the interim…(see below)

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