Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Tragedy of Katrina Continues

A raucous debate over the shortage of cheap housing and the demolition of 4,500 public units is sweeping the city and likely to become more intense.
Protesters planned to disrupt a meeting Thursday of the City Council, where members were expected to approve demolishing dozens of buildings - a move that would open racial and class divisions. People entering the council chamber had to pass through metal detectors and handbags were being searched.
The City Council vote is a critical moment in a protracted fight between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and residents, activists and preservationists.
HUD wants to demolish the buildings, most of them damaged by Hurricane Katrina, so developers can take advantage of tax credits and build new mixed-income neighborhoods.

HUD says the redevelopment, in the works before Katrina hit, will mark an end to the city's failed public housing experiment that lumped the poor into crime-ridden complexes and marooned them outside the life of the rest of the city.
But critics say the plan will shrink the stock of cheap housing at a time when housing is scarce and drive poor blacks out of the city. They also say the buildings are, contrary to popular opinion, mostly handsome brick structures that will outlast anything HUD builds in their place.
The update in the original diary is a link to an in depth take on the situation by Loyola of New Orleans Law Prof. Bill Quigley:
Every one of the displaced families who were living in public housing is African-American. Most all are headed by mothers and grandmothers working low-wage jobs or disabled or retired. Thousands of children lived in the neighborhoods. Race, class and gender are unstated parts of every justification for demolition, especially the call for "mixed-income housing." If the demolitions are allowed to go forward, there will be mixed income housing - but the mix will not include over 80 percent of the people who lived there.

This absolute lack of any realistic affordable alternative is the main reason people want to return to their public housing neighborhoods - or be guaranteed one for one replacement of their homes. Absent that, redevelopment will not help the residents or people in the community who need affordable housing.
This is the most recent development in probably the most unreported story of the last two years: The selective "rebuilding" of New Orleans. It is a key example of what Naomi Klein has referred to as disaster capitalism in her latest book, The Shock Doctrine. The rebuild after Katrina was done solely by guidelines of a broken ideology, and as a result have completely ignored the needs the victims of the storm themselves.

The "rebuilding" of New Orleans and Iraq: Blind adherence to Neo-Liberal economics at its finest... and the results speak for themselves.

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