Thursday, June 29, 2006

Poor blacks sue New Orleans for more public housing.

Culture: Via Reuters.

NEW ORLEANS, June 27 (Reuters) - Poor blacks in New Orleans sued on Tuesday to stop the government from replacing public housing units with mixed-income dwellings, calling it a discriminatory move that would bar them from coming home after Hurricane Katrina. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) plans to raze more than half of the low-income housing units it oversees in the city and replace them over the next few years with units the agency says will be better and safer. "HUD plans to keep low-income black families out of New Orleans," said Judith Browne, co-director of the Advancement Project, a national civil rights organization that filed the suit along with black families. The agency rejects the notion that it is excluding anyone, although it has said there will be fewer low-income units. "We'd like it to be a better future and not the deplorable conditions they were in before," said HUD spokesman Jerry Brown. "Everyone who was residing here before has the right to return."
The meat of the matter.
Former public housing residents have had difficulty finding places to live in the tight New Orleans market and say authorities have avoided fixing up units with only minor damage and made decisions without involving the residents, who also have property rights as lease-holders. "We are paying the tax dollars to rebuild," said Stephanie Mingo, 44, a technician for the local school district who has lived in public housing since she was 1 year old. "Why can't they take our tax dollars to do public housing?" The suit, filed in federal district court in New Orleans, says discrimination is the reason. "As a direct and proximate result of defendants' discriminatory policies and practices, plaintiffs have suffered, and in the future will continue to suffer, economic loss, humiliation, embarrassment, and emotional distress," it said. The U.S. Fair Housing Act is intended to give equal rights to all races in housing, and HUD in particular is charged with that goal. A number of city and federal officials have said that New Orleans wants hard-working people to return, which has been widely taken by public housing residents as an implication that they are jobless, lazy and their developments foster crime. Few deny that housing developments were crime-plagued, although many former residents say outsiders brought in the violence and drugs. Ex-residents and housing officials are also at odds over whether the damage wrought by Katrina should be used as an opportunity to change and upgrade public housing or whether federal officials' primary duty is to repair what is left so former residents can return as soon as possible.
The fact is N.O officials and better off residents see this as a chance to make a better New Orleans. That means the poor who live in public housing with the high crime are not wanted. Its not every day a city gets a chance at do-over in terms of social and economic factors and people want to take advantage of that. Thats the honest truth.

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