July 7, 2006 – After federal and local officials announced plans to demolish and redevelop several public-housing complexes in New Orleans, former residents are suing and protesting for the right to return to their homes and communities.
- New Orleans Public Housing Residents Set to Fight Off Developers (Feb 27, 2006)
- Policy Changes Threaten to Re-displace Katrina Survivors (May 25, 2006)
As previously reported by The NewStandard, most of New Orleansâ€™s public housing residents have been waiting in residential limbo, unable to return to their government subsidized homes. As the months dragged on, statements by city and federal officials stoked fears that they would be barred from return permanently and that their pre-Katrina housing would be redeveloped to accommodate people with higher incomes.
On June 14, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development said that it would demolish four public-housing projects in New Orleans and then build mixed-housing developments on their sites. The Department also said it would continue to clean up units in other housing projects with the goal of restoring 1,000 residences by August. HUD said nearly 1,000 out of the estimated 7,300 pre-Katrina public-housing units are inhabited again. Advocates for the displaced put the number at 880.
The redevelopment plans are reminiscent of a past project, in which a private developer was granted public funds to demolish the St. Thomas housing project and redeveloped it into "mixed use" residential and retail space. When the project was complete, and St. Thomas was renamed River Garden, only a fraction of the nearly 1,700 former residents were able to afford to return.
Last week, 18 former public housing residents filed a class-action lawsuit demanding the return of their affordable housing. The lawsuit accuses officials of purging New Orleans of low-income black residents, of violating the rights of public-housing residents by evicting them, and of violating international law guaranteeing the right of displaced people to return home.
In addition to the lawsuit, public-housing residents reportedly staged protests last month in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Houston, demanding the right to return home.