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Housing Woes in New Orleans Continue Nearly a Year After Katrina

More than 75 percent of public housing in New Orleans is unfit for human habitation after Hurricane Katrina. Rebuilding plans for these homes are underway but will take time, even though residents are ready now to return home.

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  • RALLY LEADER:

    What do we want?

  • GROUP OF PROTESTORS:

    Affordable housing!

  • RALLY LEADER:

    What do we want?

  • GROUP OF PROTESTORS:

    Affordable housing!

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER, NewsHour Correspondent:

    For weeks now, public housing supporters have been marching through the streets of New Orleans demanding that poor people be allowed to go home…

  • RALLY LEADER:

    HUD says cut back!

  • GROUP OF PROTESTORS:

    We say fight back!

  • RALLY LEADER:

    HUD says cut back!

  • GROUP OF PROTESTORS:

    We say fight back!

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    …back to public housing projects that before Hurricane Katrina were some of the most dilapidated in the country. And according their landlord, the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, most of those units are even worse now after sitting in flood water for weeks.

    But New Orleans housing advocates James Perry and Lucia Blacksher say, for the people who lived there, it was home.

  • JAMES PERRY, Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Center:

    Public housing residents in New Orleans oftentimes have lived in public housing for years and years and years, and sometimes even for generations. And so, while outsiders may look at it and say, "Oh, this is horrible and miserable," it's what they call home. And ultimately, when a person talks poorly about these properties and these locations, you're talking poorly about a person's home.

    JERRY BROWN, Department of Housing and Urban Development: You can see the water mark on the wall, where you're talking about eight-and-a-half feet of water actually coming and sitting in here. And this is what what's left, and this is what we'd have to clean up.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    HUD official Jerry Brown says many of the apartments are so contaminated a respirator must be worn to go inside.

  • JERRY BROWN:

    You've got severe mold. You've had water, sitting water in these complexes for weeks. You know, you're not going to be able to just fix it with one bottle of Clorox.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    Before the storm, about 13,000 people, most of them African-American, lived in the city's 5,000 public housing apartments. Today, several thousand are back in 1,000 rehabbed units; another 1,000 will reopen next month.

    But HUD says this is only a temporary solution. The agency plans to tear down 75 percent of the city's public housing because it's unfit for human habitation. That would make way for new neighborhoods like this to be built over the next 12 to 18 months, neighborhoods HUD says are the future of public housing.

    Even before Katrina, HUD started the transformation in three old project areas of the city, putting up town homes on tree-lined streets with manicured yards, inside, wall-to-wall carpeting, central air conditioning, new kitchens, new baths. And the new neighborhoods are not just for poor people; they're to be offered to a mix of incomes.

  • JERRY BROWN:

    We want them to return to something like this. That public housing, we would have to invest over $200 million to put it back to where it was. And what we're saying is where it was, was deplorable. And we want the next generation to be able to live in homes like this, not like the pockets of poverty where you've got people warehoused over there.

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