Stop Public Housing Demolition in New Orleans sign now

We the undersigned are professors, researchers, and policy analysts with expertise in the fields of housing, poverty, and social policy.

We have followed the reconstruction of New Orleans for more than 2 years now, and are seriously alarmed at the move to demolish public housing in the city. We are aware that demolitions are set to begin on the 15th of December, but our knowledge and conscience leads us to oppose demolition on the following grounds.

HUD, HANO, some members of the N.O. City Council, some US Senators and Representatives, and several large real-estate developers have justified the demolition of these 5000+ units of housing by claiming that they will:

1. Replace this housing and allow residents to return to the redeveloped homes.
2. Rebuild "mixed-income" communities on these sites that will prevent "concentrated pockets of poverty."
3. That these new "mixed-income" neighborhoods will be a significant improvement to the lives of the former public housing residents and the city as a whole.
4. And, that by "de-concentrating" poverty in New Orleans, this plan will reduce crime and delinquency.

None of this will happen, however, if public housing is demolished. The closure of these 4 major developments for over 2 years now has created a situation of chronic displacement and dispossession for residents and has made their lives exponentially more difficult. Demolition and eventual redevelopment will take upwards of 2-5 more years, meaning that if residents are eligible to return to these redeveloped neighborhoods, they will have been forced to wait upwards of 4-7 years to do so. Given the incomes and savings of public housing residents, waiting for 4-7 years is not an option. HUD/HANO's plan, no matter its expressed goals, will necessarily result in the permanent displacement of thousands of families from their communities, and possibly the city as a whole.

Furthermore, we must point out that the theoretical basis behind the demolition and redevelopment plan is anything but accepted in the academic community. There is no evidence to the claim that "concentrated poverty" breeds crime and delinquency, as is popularly believed. There is little support in the social science literature behind the idea that real estate redevelopment itself can assist the poor or reduce crime.

Finally, while the creation of "mixed-income" neighborhoods is something we welcome in theory, in practice the HUD HOPE VI program, and similar redevelopment projects, has delivered only mixed results. The poor, predominantly Black and Latino communities that have been bulldozed and rebuilt in the quest to create "mixed-income" neighborhoods have benefited the least from all of this.

What is needed now in New Orleans, and has been since the first days after the storm, is the re-opening of public housing. This is of course not a perfect solution to the citys housing crisis, but no other single policy can secure the right of return for so many New Orleanians.

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Julia OneillBy:
International PolicyIn:
Petition target:
US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Housing Authority of New Orleans, N.O. City Council, Mayor Ray Nagin, US Senate, US House of Representatives

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