St Bernard residents cleaning up homes despite HANO’s hostility
by Anna McRobbie/ Logan Price
Sunday, Jan. 21, 2007 at 10:42 AM
Continuing protest at St Bernard's housing development. Residents are cleaning out the homes that they are legally barred from being able to enter freely . Includes Video - 8.9 MG
Shadri Kazeno, public housing resident for 8 years, armed with a mop, broom and bleach is scrubbing and cleaning out the public housing apartment that she lived in for 8 years prior to Katrina. “It feels very good…it feels good to be in here, to clean up.” Kazeno says, looking around the home that has seen 3 generations of her family grow up.
St Bernard residents have been cleaning and fixing up their homes all this week. Technically an illegal act, scouring away the mold and removing the debris left by the hurricane has given public housing residents hope that they will eventually be let back into their homes. Sharon Jaspers, a public housing resident declared that "We are standing here for what we believe in. Our families are coming back. Our community is coming back...poor black people suffered, and you didn't do nothin’... This is only the beginning…This is a fight to the finish...We aren't waiting for the okay to clean these up, we are taking that okay. We demand that you give us our apartments back today."
Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) and Housing & Urban Development (HUD) have barred public housing residents from returning to their pre-Katrina homes, citing concerns of contamination and the finding that “St Bernard…received significant flooding and severe damage” HANO. However, John Fernandez, Associate Professor of Architecture at MIT, has inspected the apartments and concluded “no structural or nonstructural damage was found that could reasonably warrant any cost-effective building demolition.” Dr Marty Rowland, a New Orleanian civil engineer, assessed that the vast majority of units are habitable with rewiring and restoration of utilities. Check out the video below to see what the apartments actually look like.
HANO & HUD have unveiled plans for demolition and rebuilding public housing into mixed income apartments. The plans would cut the number of low-income apartments from 5000 to under 1000 and will take years to complete. Opponents of HUD & HANO’s plans point out that New Orleans is in the midst of the most severe affordable housing crisis since the Civil War. Many tenants forced away by Katrina have been unable to return due to scarcity of housing and skyrocketing rent. Financially, demolishing and rebuilding New Orleans public housing is projected to cost $175 million more than extensively modernizing the developments, and upwards of $450 million more than simply repairing them would cost.
Critics charge that HANO & HUD’s plans have prevented the majority black displaced population from returning to New Orleans. A detailed analysis by Brown University professor John R. Logan found that New Orleans could lose as much as 80 percent of its black population if its most damaged neighborhoods are not rebuilt and if there is not significant government assistance to help poor people return. "The continuing question about the hurricane is this: Whose city will be rebuilt?" Dr. Logan wrote in the report. An organizer, from MayDay NOLA, a housing advocacy group involved in the struggle to keep public housing open states "It seems very evident that the government is not just indifferent that [the residents] come back, but are also very determined that they not come back. They do not want the poor in this city anymore. They wish to rebuild with a new vision of New Orleans which doesn’t include the single mother, the children that are growing up in poverty. It doesn’t include those who have been made homeless and who have suffered so much because of Katrina.”
So far, HANO has not arrested any of the residents or volunteers for entering the units. A representative stated that they will not interfere with anyone cleaning out St Bernard apartments as long the lease holder is there or has given written permission.
27 residents have begun the process of making their homes livable again. The question remains though--will HANO & HUD let them move back in?
Look at this video and judge for yourself-are these apartments habitable:
windows media at 8.9 megabytes
Justice for New Orleans