09:44 AM CST on Monday, January 16, 2006
Ben Lemoine / WWL-TV News Reporter
An overall lack of housing continues to haunt people in south Louisiana; some have said a simple solution would be to reopen more public housing developments that were shut down after Hurricane Katrina. But city officials said it's not that simple.
At a ceremony honoring Martin Luther King on Sunday, some blamed government officials for blocking off developments. Last year, Housing and Urban Development President Alphonse Jackson said the buildings would not be repaired, but instead redesigned into mixed-income units. Jackson gave no timeframe on when that would take place.
"I mean, we have tens of thousands of people in public housing. You are going to try to eliminate the poor in order to accommodate the rich,” said housing activist Jomo Kenyatta-Bean. “You can't just shut them out just like that. We are going to lose a large population of black people in this city.”
Although the bottom floors in most developments were pretty much destroyed, the second and third floors remain virtually untouched. Some resident believe it would just take a little bit of hard work to make them livable again.
"No major structural damage. No major damage in terms of a lot of the second floor units. A lot of the roofs: they held up pretty good," said Oliver Thomas, Orleans City Council President. "It's something we ought to be able to work together to work out. I just don't know why we haven't done it yet."
Thomas said Washington holds all the housing cards for the Crescent City and he hoped to meet with federal officials in the coming weeks to discuss the possibility of using some of the developments for housing.
But while Thomas attempts to get assistance, he and his colleagues have been getting the blame.
“…I would blame the city officials,” Kenyatta-Bean said. “…I spoke with Councilman Thomas and (Congressman) Bill Jefferson and we are going to meet next week with the receivers to see what kind of timeframe they have put together to allow people to come back to public housing."
Online at: http://www.wwltv.com/local/stories/wwl011606khhousing.b4f64a3.html