Excerpts from Policy Link website

(no date)

Equitable Renewal: Ten Points to Guide Rebuilding in the Gulf Coast Region

  1. Ensure that all residents who want to return can return to communities of opportunity. Everyone who was evacuated from the region should be able to return and to have a decent living. Focus on targeting low-income housing tax credits to spread affordable housing broadly across the city and surrounding region, and set up a guiding entity to help families find housing in communities that connect residents to opportunity.
  2. Equitably distribute the amenities and infrastructure investments that make all communities livable. For example, parks should be spread throughout the city; attractive, modern school buildings should be placed to serve every neighborhood; a transit system should be built or enhanced to serve all the residents of New Orleans.
  3. Prioritize health and safety concerns. Rebuilding efforts should not expose residents to potential hazards like residual toxins, air and groundwater pollution, or future flooding.
  4. Ensure responsible resettlement or relocation for displaced Gulf Coast residents. Adequate relocation support must be provided for New Orleans residents who wish to return to the city (but cannot and should not return to their former neighborhoods), as well as evacuees who choose not to return or cannot return to the Gulf Coast for an extended period of time. Make sure that residents are not relocated multiple times; whenever possible, provide families with choices; provide counseling for those being relocated; ensure appropriate support and transition assistance; and safeguard against exploitation by predatory lenders.
  5. Restore and build the capacity of community based organizations in the Gulf Coast region and beyond. Federal, state, and local government—in partnership with the philanthropic community—must dedicate resources to enable New Orleans and Gulf Coast community based organizations to reestablish operations, actively participate in rebuilding efforts, and connect with returning residents in need of critical support. Additionally, in Houston, Baton Rouge, and other areas welcoming substantial numbers of evacuees, government resources must enhance the capacity of local community and social service organizations to provide assistance to newcomers, so that already underfunded support networks for the poor are not further diminished.
  6. Create wealth-building opportunities to effectively address poverty. In addition to not concentrating poverty, the rebuilding effort should increase wealth and assets of residents through jobs that pay wages sufficient to lift people out of poverty, home ownership opportunities, personal savings, and small business development.
  7. Strengthen the political voice of dispersed residents. Specifically, every effort should be made to ensure that everyone can continue to engage in the voting process. Residents of color, whether returning to the Gulf Coast or settling permanently in other regions, must continue to have representation that serves their interests and needs.
  8. Create a system for meaningful, sustained resident oversight of the $200 billion investment that will be implemented by private development corporations. Community benefits agreements and local oversight policies can ensure “double bottom line” investments that offer financial return to investors while also building social capital and healthy, vibrant communities.
  9. Leverage rebuilding expenditures to create jobs with livable wages that go first to local residents. Make investment in massive job training for those who need such assistance to qualify for jobs. Rebuilding efforts should also build assets for residents and small businesses—not simply siphon opportunities to non-local corporate interests.
  10. Develop a communications and technology infrastructure that provides residents with the means to receive and share information related to community building, support services, and access to jobs, transportation, and temporary and permanent housing, and that strengthens public will for the changes that will be required for short-term and long-term efforts to rebuild Gulf communities and lives. Online communications systems can supplement and fill gaps in mainstream media coverage of the equity implications of rebuilding New Orleans and serve simultaneously to inform and engage by providing evacuees and advocacy networks dispersed across the country, as well as the general public, opportunities to organize and take action online.


Notes from the Field: Louisiana

Out of the catastrophic events unleashed by Hurricane Katrina, promising signs of community organizing and rebuilding emerged in New Orleans and communities where the city’s displaced residents have landed. After reassembling their staff and locating their membership, community and faith-based groups turned to recovering and repairing their offices and churches. Now networks have formed, as these diverse, neighborhood-based organizations work to make their voices heard in the rebuilding plans, lobby for equitable allocation of reconstruction funds, and continue to connect their constituents to much-needed resources:

  • Father Vien The Nguyen of Mary Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church scoured every city hosting displaced residents to find all his 2,000 Vietnamese-American congregants. With many now back home in Louisiana, his church is leading the rehabilitation efforts in New Orleans East through housing assistance, feeding people, planning to build new senior housing, and working to reopen the small businesses that served their community.

  • ACORN set out an ambitious plan to rehabilitate 1,000 houses, costing an average of $2,500/household, in the Lower 9th Ward and Gentilly neighborhoods. So far ACORN has gutted and stabilized over 1,850 homes in the hardest hit neighborhoods. The organization is helping to identify housing clusters with less damage, and find the homeowners to secure the rehabiliation rights that will steadily bring back a block. ACORN also organized 600 displaced residents from six cities to visit Capitol Hill and lobby for the right to return to their neighborhoods, as well as short term housing funds for the crucial rehab work that allows people to move home.

  • Road Home Monitoring is a primary focus for PolicyLink. Since March 2007, PolicyLink has partnered with LDRF, Oxfam, and to a lesser extent LANO to develop and implement a multi-faceted monitoring and action strategy around ensuring equitable outcomes in the Road Home Homeowner Assistance program. The role of PolicyLink in this effort has been to inform advocacy and capacity building through data analysis, to participate in practitioner capacity building, to communicate the concerns of practitioners to state agencies, to inform a federal strategy and to work to implement a joint media strategy. Oxfam’s role has been to bring together and coordinate meetings with practitioners, to network across state boundaries and support data analysis. LDRF has also assisted with tapping their grantee network, harnessing opportunities to work at the federal level and with top state policymakers, and has supported the work through contracting with experts in citizen monitoring. This effort has led to a incorporation of citizen voice into legislative audits of the program, the creation of a geographically and ethnically diverse learning network of practitioners, and increased capacity of local groups to advocate for better outcomes.

  • Catholic Charities is playing a central role in direct service provision, new housing development, and rehabilitation. The development branch, Providence Community Housing, has plans in the works for thousands of new housing units. In rehabilitation, Operation Helping Hands has gutted 1,925 homes and is now working with families and seniors to negotiate through the state rebuilding program and supplement this program with volunteers and other resources to make sure these families are able to rebuild their homes with the limited resources available.

  • Neighborhood Development Foundation is continuing its pre-Katrina dedication to Hoffman Triangle in Central City and to families wishing to become first time homebuyers by conducting trainings, finding additional resources and constructing new affordable homes.

  • Churches Supporting Churches serves faith-based communities throughout the state of Louisiana. Faith leaders, particularly those in African American communities, with ministries that create the heart of devastated communities, are facing an extreme lack of resources with the myriad needs of the parishioners. Many Gulf Coast-area pastors are subsisting on minimal unemployment benefits (based on self-employment income) and feeling increasingly fatigued from attempting to rebuild their own homes and lives after the hurricanes, as well as addressing the needs of their congregations. Through Churches Supporting Churches, 36 Louisiana based ministers are planning a year of capacity building activities on equitable community redevelopment and policy advocacy.

  • New Orleans Legal Assistance (NOLAC) is part of Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, which provides free legal aid for low-income people on civil legal problems, in a 10-parish area in southeast Louisiana. NOLAC also gives help state-wide, on low-income tax problems and predatory home loans. Their approach is to work with community groups and social services agencies to provide up-to-date information about legal issues affecting the poor in Louisiana. In addition, NOLAC works with other legal advocacy organizations around the state, and nationally, in litigation and educational efforts to protect their legal rights post-Katrina in accessing housing aid, appeals to FEMA, settling succession issues on their damaged property, etc.

  • The Peoples’ Hurricane Relief Fund is working to build and maintain a coordinated network of community leaders, organizers, and community-based organizations with the capacity and organizational infrastructure to help meet the needs of people most impacted by Katrina and facilitate an organizing process that will demand local, grassroots leadership in the relief, return, and reconstruction process in New Orleans.

  • PICO LIFT (Louisiana Interfaiths Together) is working with its 100 member churches across the state (organized into six local or regional federations), and reaching out to displaced residents in hotels and temporary trailer parks. PICO has taken several dozen ministers to Congress to lobby for passage of funds to restore levees and housing, and regularly brings local members to legislative hearings to advocate for restoring families’ losses and helping them return home.

  • The Central City Renaissance Alliance brings together Hope Community Credit Union, Ashé Cultural Arts Center (which serves as Central City’s gathering place for the displaced), and the New Orleans Neighborhood Development Collaborative (NONDC) to restore housing and address concerns about gentrification and displacement of lower-income residents from the city’s higher-ground communities.

  • The National Baptist Convention has established 13 Resurrection Centers to provide services to hurricane survivors in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Lake Charles, and Monroe.

  • Neighborhood Housing Services is working in the Treme community to assemble capital, purchase property for new affordable housing construction and work with families to help them make the transition from renters to first time homeowners.

  • Small Business Assistance is essential in rebuilding the Gulf Coast region. In addition to its housing work, the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation (LDRF) is working to spur the reopening and recovery of small businesses in the City by partnering with small business support organizations such as NewCorps and Idea Village through its Collaborative for Enterprise Development (CED). With a $4.6 million two-year grant awarded in October 2006 that was used to establish the CED, LDRF was able assist 292 small businesses to recover and stabilize themselves, which allowed the retention of close to 1,000 jobs exceeding its one-year goal of assisting 250 small businesses.

All of these groups are striving to meet tremendous networking, housing recovery, and human service needs. Local community and faith-based organizations must play a decisive and well-informed role in the allocation of federal resources and the programs that will rebuild their communities.

Many of them are a part of the Louisiana Housing Alliance, formed after Katrina, that connects community development corporations from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and across the state with fair housing, legal services, homeless service providers, supportive housing, and community organizing groups. Staffed temporarily by the Louisiana Association of Nonprofits (LANO), the Housing Alliance has assumed the critical task of advancing affordable and equitable housing policy at the parish, state, and federal level. Historically, the state essentially had limited involvement in crafting housing policy prior to the hurricanes. Katrina’s devastation, however, has created an enormous statewide housing crisis, with all federal resources being routed for the first time through the state.

This change makes it especially important for Louisiana housing leaders and state legislators to develop their expertise on the complexities of housing policy. Alliance members include Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, Providence Community Housing, the Mid-South Delta Initiative, UNITY of Greater New Orleans, LANO, and Capital Area Alliance for the Homeless. National organizations lending their support and expertise to the alliance include PolicyLink, Fannie Mae Foundation, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, National Low Income Housing Coalition, and National Housing Law Project. The alliance has recently elected its first board of Directors and has been working on a wide range of housing issues from growing NIMBYism in the state to the newly funded state housing trust fund. Weekly conference calls allow coalition members to: identify priority actions in a rapidly-developing housing policy environment; receive updates from national organizations on rebuilding discussions in Washington and seek federal policy guidance from Louisiana; and develop program and policy directions. Policy change emphasizes the input and participation of local groups and their members, thus insuring that those affected by policy and legislation are meaningfully included in the decision-making process.



Equitable Development Toolkit

See http://www.policylink.org/EDTK/default.html