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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Official blunt on public housing
He wants 'only the best residents' back
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
By Bill Walsh
Washington bureau







WASHINGTON -- U.S. Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson shed little light Monday on the future of public housing in hurricane-battered New Orleans, but said that "only the best residents" of the former St. Thomas housing complex should be allowed into the new mixed-income development that replaced it.

In a wide-ranging interview with reporters, Jackson was asked about the relatively small number of apartments in the 60-acre River Gardens development in Uptown that have been set aside for former residents of St. Thomas. Jackson estimated it was 18 percent to 20 percent, although housing advocates said it is less.

"Some of the people shouldn't return," Jackson said. "The (public housing) developments were gang-ridden by some of the most notorious gangs in this country. People hid and took care of those persons because they took care of them. Only the best residents should return. Those who paid rent on time, those who held a job and those who worked."

The blunt-spoken Jackson, who is black, acknowledged his comments might be seen as racially offensive because virtually all of the former St. Thomas residents were African-American. He told a white reporter, "If you said this, they would say you were racist."

He went on to say, "I don't care what color they are, if they are devastating a community, they shouldn't be allowed to return."


'Very disappointing'

His comments drew a sharp response from housing advocates in New Orleans who have accused Jackson's agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, of giving public housing residents short shrift as it replaces traditional public developments such as St. Thomas with planned, mixed-income communities.

"I find that very disappointing," said Lucia Blacksher, general counsel for the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Center. "When people say things like we only want the best people who don't do drugs or commit crimes, there is an implication that many of the people in public housing are in fact criminals who don't work. That simply is not true. It is an unnecessary stereotype and an alarming stereotype to be voiced by the secretary of HUD."

Jackson also had some tough words for black leaders he said are stoking racial fires in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"I'm a little disturbed that even today they want to bring a racial component into the hurricane. This isn't about racism; this is about people suffering," said Jackson, pointing to the large number of Vietnamese fishers along the Gulf Coast whose livelihoods were ruined by the storm. "It's important (to remember) that everybody suffered in this disaster, not just black people. It bothers me tremendously when I see the so-called leadership in the black community, the liberal community, zeroing in (on) how much more difficult it was for African-Americans than it was for white Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Asian-Americans."


Tougher policy possible

Jackson's comments may presage a renewed, get-tough policy when it comes to public housing in post-hurricane New Orleans.

Jackson recently oversaw a shakeup of the Housing Authority of New Orleans, which is in receivership and controlled by his agency. He replaced the receiver and the board chairman with two officials from the HUD headquarters in Washington.

HANO spokesman Adonis Expose also confirmed Monday that the agency is considering a long-rumored policy change that would require all public housing residents in New Orleans to have a job or be in a job-training program.

Eight months after Hurricane Katrina, the future of the 10 public housing complexes in New Orleans remains an open question. Times have never been tougher for low-income people, as a shortage of rental housing after Hurricane Katrina has seen rents rise to historic levels.

While HUD has reopened some complexes, such as Iberville, most remain closed and surrounded by fencing. Eager to return, former residents have marched in protest to force the government to open more, but HUD has refused.

Asked about it Monday, Jackson said that complexes that suffered severe damage will likely be torn down and redeveloped. Although, he said, it will be up to the mayor -- either incumbent Ray Nagin or Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, depending on who wins the May 20 runoff -- to make the key decisions on rebuilding.

"We will rebuild, if that's what the mayor wants," Jackson said. "Do we rebuild the same way? Probably not."


Infrastructure lacking

Echoing Bush administration statements in recent months, Jackson said that despite the need for affordable housing, New Orleans' infrastructure remains too fragile to reopen the public housing complexes.

"Most of the public housing developments are in areas where electricity has not been turned on, schools are not open, there are no grocery stores, and we have a serious mold and lead problem in some of those buildings," Jackson said. "If tomorrow, all those factors came together, we would open them up. We're willing to do that." But he said the former residents "already lived in pretty much substandard conditions; I'm not going to condone further substandard conditions. I think that is inhumane and wrong."

Housing advocates say HUD could help drive the repopulation of New Orleans by opening apartments, some of which received only minor damage in the hurricane. If complexes were open, the subsequent boost in population, they say, would prompt businesses and schools to reopen as well.

But those critics say HUD has no interest in reopening the complexes, only redeveloping much as was done with St. Thomas. Their fear, they say, is that redevelopment does not always work to the benefit of public housing residents, who can end up getting squeezed out by higher rents of the new housing.

"I think they are getting ready to demolish public housing," said Laura Tuggle, a lawyer with New Orleans Legal Assistance. "One of the hardest parts of redevelopment is having to relocate residents of public housing. That job was done for them."


Employee use?

Before Katrina, many former St. Thomas residents were on the waiting list for low-rent apartments at River Gardens. They had been screened to make sure they had jobs and didn't have criminal records.

After the storm, HANO installed its own employees in some of the vacant apartments. Expose, the HANO spokesman, said it was done so they would have a place to stay while they worked to make other public housing available around the city.

Fair housing groups have filed administrative complaints to force HANO to open more spaces in River Gardens to former St. Thomas residents or other low-income public housing residents. They took issue with Jackson's estimate that a fifth of River Garden's apartments has gone to the former residents and estimated that it could be as low as 10 percent.

They say they have grave concerns if the development ends up being the face of public housing in New Orleans.

"If the model is River Gardens, it has failed miserably," said James Perry, executive director of the New Orleans Fair Housing Council.

. . . . . . .


Bill Walsh can be reached at [email protected] or (202) 383-7817.

http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/frontpage/index.ssf?/base/news-5/1145947501313590.xml

http://www.rivergardenneworleans.com/pages/about.html
 

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I largely agree with some things that were stated, but unfortunately, it's not that simple.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I do appreciate this comment. We all have suffered. My parents, who are white, lost everything when they had 17 feet of water in their home (5 feet on floor 2). They had furniture shoved between the first floor and the second floor. When the flood subsided, after over 2 weeks, their sofa was hanging from the ceiling, destroyed. Their home was a site that is impossible to put into words. It was truly unreal. And they were devastated by it all. It has been a heart wrenching experience and loss. But, they are dealing with it as best as one could expect. And their pain is no less and no greater than anyone who has suffered similar losses, IMO.

"I'm a little disturbed that even today they want to bring a racial component into the hurricane. This isn't about racism; this is about people suffering," said Jackson, pointing to the large number of Vietnamese fishers along the Gulf Coast whose livelihoods were ruined by the storm. "It's important (to remember) that everybody suffered in this disaster, not just black people. It bothers me tremendously when I see the so-called leadership in the black community, the liberal community, zeroing in (on) how much more difficult it was for African-Americans than it was for white Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Asian-Americans."
 

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It seems like some people are glad that this hurricane was able to wash away such awful institutions like public housing, i guess they let the hurricane do the job they wanted to do all along.
 

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To move people back into those projects in the condition they were in before the storm is immoral. Low density mixed-income is the future. So, they'll have to wait... like it or not. It's better for their children, and for the future of this city as a whole. The majority of people who were there were good honest people. They don't want the criminals or freeloaders back either.
 

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it doesn't matter who you do, or don't want back. everyone of those people deserve a place to stay if they lost the place they lived to the hurricaine. They didn't choose to have a hurricaine come through and flood their neighborhood. stop blaming these people.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I don't see anyone blaming anyone for anything...we had a hurricane. It's been an awful experience. I'm like Cannonized...I advocate "public" housing people in more upscale surroundings that provide dignity. If you are involved with illegal and criminal activities, you aren't entitled to what the taxpayer enjoys, because you aren't a tax payer...you are only enjoying the benefits of living in this country off of others. If you are a criminal, you shouldn't live in nice establishments that the public funds, and you are on your own until you decide that you can behave yourself and abide by the laws and rules that the rest of us respect on a daily basis.
 

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Soulbrotha said:
it doesn't matter who you do, or don't want back. everyone of those people deserve a place to stay if they lost the place they lived to the hurricaine. They didn't choose to have a hurricaine come through and flood their neighborhood. stop blaming these people.
NOT TRUE. Criminals don't deserve to come back. Neither do people didn't contribute one thing to New Orleans other than sitting on their butts while collecting public assistance.
 

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JPKneworleans said:
NOT TRUE. Criminals don't deserve to come back. Neither do people didn't contribute one thing to New Orleans other than sitting on their butts while collecting public assistance.

thats B.S.. everyone who lost anything from that hurricaine should be allowed back Period. especially since most of the poor were treated like crap during the "rescue."
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Soulbrotha said:
thats B.S.. everyone who lost anything from that hurricaine should be allowed back Period. especially since most of the poor were treated like crap during the "rescue."
Since you are so generous...do you think Louisville would take our criminals??..why don't you write a letter to the editor or your mayor and tell them that you think Louisville should take our murderers, drug dealers, and thieves since you are so sympathetic to their cause. I'm sure that we could make some type of nice arrangement where we could locate them and send them your way....
 

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Sean in New Orleans said:
Since you are so generous...do you think Louisville would take our criminals??..why don't you write a letter to the editor or your mayor and tell them that you think Louisville should take our murderers, drug dealers, and thieves since you are so sympathetic to their cause. I'm sure that we could make some type of nice arrangement where we could locate them and send them your way....
These aren't criminals IMO people who lost their homes or wherever it was they lived before katrina are homeless. each and everyone of them should be the first invited back to their rebuilt neighborhoods....if they even are rebuilt
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Soulbrotha said:
These aren't criminals IMO people who lost their homes or wherever it was they lived before katrina are homeless. each and everyone of them should be the first invited back to their rebuilt neighborhoods....if they even are rebuilt
We are taking care of our own down here...there's more to things than you likely know. Whether people are poor, black, white, rich, fat, skinny, etc...we have gone through this tragedy together and we know that we are tied to this unique beautiful city TOGETHER. You make it sound like we are being mean and evil to our own neighbors...not true. Not true at all. There are more people hugging each other every day in this city from all walks of life than you could imagine. With that said...none of us want criminals back..no matter what color we are or what they (the criminals) are....
 

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Sean in New Orleans said:
We are taking care of our own down here...there's more to things than you likely know. Whether people are poor, black, white, rich, fat, skinny, etc...we have gone through this tragedy together and we know that we are tied to this unique beautiful city TOGETHER. You make it sound like we are being mean and evil to our own neighbors...not true. Not true at all. There are more people hugging each other every day in this city from all walks of life than you could imagine. With that said...none of us want criminals back..no matter what color we are or what they (the criminals) are....
everyone who lost their home, apartment, trailor or whatever, should be free to return. and ladies and gentlemen, thats my final word :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Fine...you believe in rights of criminals and I believe that criminals forfeit those rights when they commit crimes. And ladies and gentlemen, that's where I proudly stand, myself.
 

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I don't think a hurricaine should be used to cure a problem that should have been solved years before. when people commit crimes, they go to jail.... thats what a police department is for....how about they do their job, and not depend on a hurricain to wipe away your cities problems?
 

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Soulbrotha said:
it doesn't matter who you do, or don't want back. everyone of those people deserve a place to stay if they lost the place they lived to the hurricaine. They didn't choose to have a hurricaine come through and flood their neighborhood. stop blaming these people.
Nobody is entitled to housing. Read the constitution. I'm not blaming "these people", as you put it. I'm trying to make sure that they come back to a better situation, and the problem people are dealt with. Why are we having such a hard time drawing a line between the criminals and the good people? Seems simple to me. Criminals, under the old system, could live in New Orleans with no problem. They can't live in Houston... they have to pay RENT. They got a free ride here, because HANO looked the other way. We allowed these criminals to live in these high density complexes... ruining the lives of families for decades. We never enforced the rules and guidelines you had to meet to live in public housing. Houston, Atlanta, and other cities don't allow freeloading criminals to stay in public housing. Why should we?
 

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Cannonized said:
Nobody is entitled to housing. Read the constitution. I'm not blaming "these people", as you put it. I'm trying to make sure that they come back to a better situation, and the problem people are dealt with.

Well if your home is still there, just damaged, you should be allowed to rebuild it. And if you lived in a public housing unit before the hurricaine, and that housing unit is rebuilt, or reopened, you should be the first to be called to return. at least in my book. Nobody asked for a hurricaine to come through and wipe away their property and lives.

the "problem people" should have been a priority before the hurricaine, then you wouldn't have been having 200-300 murder a year. To use a hurricaine as a way to reduce crime is just wrong. You can't use katrina as a way to solve your cities crime problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
There is a law that is "on the books," that has really never been enforced, but, it is going to be enforced post-Katrina. The law states that you MUST work or be on disability, or retired to live in public housing. If you can't provide these to officials then you cannot live in public housing. It is a law. The days of sitting in the house, watching TV, and living off a monthly check and food stamps are over in New Orleans. It nourished too much crime, societal issues, and a lifestyle that provided too much comfort and relaxation to too many people long enough. It is over.
 
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