New Orleans Public Housing in Decade-Long Stall

In the aftermath of Katrina, President Obama's Choice Neighborhoods initiative promised thousands of new affordable units. But so far the Housing Authority of New Orleans hasn't proved up to the task.
July 6, 2015, 7am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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In an article for Next City, Katy Reckdahl tells the halting story of New Orleans public housing after the flood. Following an extended period of inaction, four years ago "a trapezoid-shaped, 300-square-block section of the city [was] targeted for a major federal 'transformation' through the Choice Neighborhoods initiative heralded as a keystone of President Barack Obama's urban agenda."

"Yet the federal government also may have over-estimated its signature initiative, which awarded its first high-profile Choice Neighborhood grants to five cities in 2011 but was only able to give them a combined $122 million [...] If construction continues at the same pace in coming years, the promised 2,314 apartments won't be complete until 2026."

The relative scantiness of Choice Neighborhoods funding slows results. "'$350 million, spread over the U.S. for distressed neighborhoods is a drop in the bucket,' said Anthony Sanders, a professor of finance at George Mason University."

In addition, infrastructural inadequacies make it difficult to secure the investment necessary to fully finance the projects. Reckdahl writes, "New developments usually became islands of shiny, colorful buildings stuck in still-troubled neighborhoods with sporadic bus service, poor schools and little green space."

Meanwhile, the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) has been hesitant to make its records public. "A broader context was impossible to get from HANO, since its staff refused to turn over the progress reports that HUD requires it send each quarter."

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Published on Monday, June 15, 2015 in Next City
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