New Orleans: Urgent Advocacy Needed
Pax Christi New Orleans chapter is requesting advocacy help from our broader Pax Christi membership to help stop the proposed demolition of public housing units in New Orleans. The public housing garden-style apartments being slated for demolition by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) include 4,534 apartments: 1546 in BW Cooper, 753 in CJ Peete, 1400 in St. Bernard, 865 in Lafitte. Residents have been prevented from returning to their apartments, and many residents are still scattered all over the country.
Dr. Bill Quigley, of Loyola University Law School and Pax Christi USA 2003 Teacher of Peace, is representing the displaced. In a Washington Post article (12/08/06) he described the situation as “a government-sanctioned diaspora of New Orleans's poorest African American citizens... They are destroying perfectly habitable apartments when they are more rare than any time since the Civil War."
John Fernandez, Associate Professor of Architecture at MIT, has inspected 140 of these apartments and has concluded ”no structural or nonstructural damage was found that could reasonably warrant any cost-effective building demolition...and that replacement of these buildings with contemporary construction would yield buildings of lower quality and shorter lifetime duration.”
The demolished buildings would make way for much newer and many fewer apartments which would be built by private developers, as mixed housing. The demolition and private development would be financed by millions of dollars in federal funds and federal tax breaks designed to help Katrina victims.
Advocacy Request: The House of Representatives’ Finance Committee has oversight of HUD. Rep. Barney Frank is chair of the House Finance Committee and Rep. Maxine Waters is chair of the subcommittee with direct oversight of HUD. Contact your Member in the House of Representatives and ask them to contact Representatives Frank and Waters with a request to investigate this situation in New Orleans. Please email or fax them today. For additional information and a link for help with contacting your elected federal officials, see the Web site: www.jus ticeforneworleans.org.
For a background sheet on affordable housing in New Orleans to include with your advocacy letter (sample below), click here.
Sample Letter: Dear Representative ____________,
As a member of Pax Christi, the national Catholic peace movement, we have learned from our Pax Christi New Orleans chapter that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has decided to demolish four major public housing projects in New Orleans and to build mixed income housing in their place. Such redevelopment would take 3 to 5 years before public housing residents could return to their city; and even then, there would not be enough public housing units provided to house all of the public housing residents who lived in New Orleans before Katrina. I understand that the second and third floors of the public housing projects slated for demolition would be habitable now with some repair and clean-up work. There is substantial information that this demolition is not warranted (see attached).
Recognizing the extreme shortage of affordable housing in New Orleans since Katrina, it seems unconscionable that these public housing units would be destroyed at this time. Please help the people of New Orleans stop the destruction of this housing by contacting Representative Barney Frank, chair of the House Finance Committee, and Representative Maxine Waters, chair of the subcommittee of the House Finance Committee with oversight of HUD. Please ask them to investigate this situation in New Orleans as part of their HUD oversight duties.
Please find attached a summary of the housing situation in New Orleans prepared by Dr. William Quigley of Loyola University, New Orleans. I will appreciate hearing your response to this request.
(Name and Affiliation)