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Act Now: Save New Orleans Public Housing | The Nation

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Act Now: Save New Orleans Public Housing

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Samhita Mukhopadhyay

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December 12, 2007

The post Katrina housing crisis is one that we know about, but is failing to get as much national attention as it should. It is an ongoing problem and the structures that are supposed to be fixing up housing, providing and protecting the residents and working to "bring New Orleans back," have failed to keep their promises. New Orleans has been flooded with bad policy decisions in the last 2 years that has left thousands of people homeless.

This week has been an eventful one in New Orleans, as activists fight against the city of New Orleans and U.S. Department of Housing and Development who have plans to demolish four public housing developments--that is 5000 units of public housing--and replace them with newly developed "mixed income" housing. Mixed income is one of those terms that sounds harmless, but really means, push out the poor families and families of color and replace them with higher income folks.

According to the Times-Picyune, most of the demolition plans are going ahead full force with the exception of one of the developments that the Historical Conservation Committee decided to preserve in response to activist demands.

Six voting members of the Housing Conservation District Review Committee deadlocked on giving their blessing to the demolition of the Lafitte complex near the Treme.

The same panel, however, approved demolition plans for 55 buildings at C.J. Peete in Central City and 88 buildings at B.W. Cooper, off Earhart Boulevard.

The 3-3 vote means that HANO must go before the City Council in order to win approval to begin tearing down 76 buildings at Lafitte, which has been shuttered and vacant since Hurricane Katrina struck more than two years ago.

While anti-demolition protesters said they had saved Lafitte from demolition after the tie vote, housing officials said they would press on with plans to level most of the buildings there.

"We're going to appeal to the City Council," said David Jackson, a HANO spokesman, who didn't have an exact date for the appeal but said it must happen soon in order to ensure that the low-income housing tax credits obtained for the massive redevelopment don't expire.

It is never a happy day when the needs of developers and their greedy plans are given more seriousness then the communities they are supposed to be governing and protecting. Furthermore, it is not a coincidence that it is low income families, people of color and women of color that are the victims of this demolition. There are several logical, moral, ethical and financially wise reasons the New Orleans' city government should listen up to the demands of activists and organizers.

Several of the housing units are in habitable condition, and are made with beautiful brick making them durable, comfortable housing units. They have provided a community and shelter for these communities for generations. Furthermore, maintaining and renovating the public housing would be cheaper than tearing it down and starting over. According to Defend New Orleans Public Housing, it will cost an estimated 762 million dollars to tear down these public housing units and that doesn't include the small vouchers that they will be providing for displaced residents. These vouchers are so small, the residents won't be able to buy another house. It is important for New Orleans and the federal government to protect, provide and maintain public housing. It is a basic human right.

For more information on this, check out Defend New Orleans Public Housing, Justice for New Orleans and People's Hurricane Relief Fund.

Several organizers, activists, advocates and community members have formed a "Stop the Demolition" Coalition and believe that not only to we need to stop the demolition but the signing and passage of Bill 1668: The Gulf Coast Recovery Act. Demand to stop the demolitions and support the passage of SB 1668 here.

Samhita Mukhopadhyay serves on WireTap's advisory board, is the training and technology coordinator at the Youth Media Council and is an editor at Feministing.com.

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