Response to letter objecting to plans to demolish New Orleans public housing

U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
Date Published: 
August 14, 2006
On behalf of Secretary Alphonso Jackson, thank you for your letter of July 30,2006, expressing concerns regarding the decision. by HUD and the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) to demolish and redevelop St. Bernard, RW. Cooper, C.J. Peete and Lafitte. As you know and clearly appreciate, the rebuilding of New Orleans presents complex and difficult challenges. However, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina also affords both an opportunity, and responsibility, to improve the quality of housing in the City and the lives of its residents.
Your letter states that the demolition and redevelopment of public housing units in
New Orleans will make itimpossible for displaced Katrina survivors to return home, and add to the growing population of homeless ness in the City. You also state that the decision was made in haste, without considering the impact on displaced residents. Your letter states that it is HUD's responsibility to provide clear guidelines and respond to resident concerns, thereby giving residents an opportunity to have meaningful input. You request that HUD initiate a process with transparent criteria and a clear plan on how adequate and affordable housing will be provided for all eligible people.
Prior to Hurricane Katrina, much of the HANO public housing inventory was occupied, although the projects were economically and functionally obsolete, and in need of substantial repair. As a result of Hurricane Katrina, most of the inventory was extensively damaged and not habitable, due to physical as well as environmental hazards; The magnitude of repairs required to even begin to address the multitude and severity of the damage is enormous, and is further compounded by the deleterious effects of the buildings' age and deteriorated condition, even preĀ­Katrina. The inappropriate design and layout of the projects and units reinforce the need to replace .these projects with new communities where families can live in a safe and decent environment.

The HANO recovery plan recognizes that there is a massive housing crisis in New Orleans, especially impacting low-'income residents. It explicitly responds to the immediacy of the need, realizing that many public housing residents have been displaced and that time is of the essence. To that end, the Secretary has announced the rehabilitation and intended re-occupancy of portions of the inventory, including a total of 2,000 public housing units. HANO's overall recovery objectives include the redevelopment of public housing projects into mixed-income communities. The redevelopment is planned to be consistent with available complementary neighborhood resources and services to maximize housing opportunities and create strong and stable communities.
The demolition process being followed will fully comply with all City requirements, including public hearings and environmental reviews. The redevelopment plan is intended to provide housing for a range of income levels, and to reduce the density and concentration of public housing units through the use of generally accepted design principles that include the creation of defensible space and the offering of varied housing types in each new community. The HUD and HANO vision for these new communities will be implemented with broad participation by residents, the community, the City and other stakeholders. All normal and customary City reviews and approval processes will be followed. The redeveloped communities will include right of return criteria for former residents, as well as resident participation in the planning process and the provision of supportive services to assist residents with recovery.
HUD and HANO look forward to working cooperatively with the community and the diverse range of groups and organizations concerned with the future of the City. Working together, HUD hopes that a consensus can be reached on a redevelopment program that transforms the physical environment of public housing residents and enhances their quality of life and potential to achieve self-sufficiency.
Thank you for your interest in the Department's programs.
Dominique Blom
Deputy Assistant Secretary
Office of Public Housing Investments