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In New Orleans, Reinventing the Idea of Public Housing

As New Orleans recovers from Hurricane Katrina, public housing units set for demolition will be replaced by "neighborhood-style" communities that will be available to residents with a mix of income levels -- a plan that has raised some debate in the storm-ravaged area.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Next, the third story in our series on the housing crisis in post-Katrina New Orleans. NewsHour correspondent Betty Ann Bowser looks at public housing.

  • HOUSING DEVELOPER:

    This reflects your desire to live in houses that look like houses.

    BETTY ANN BOWSER, NewsHour correspondent: A group of developers and their architects recently introduced a new way of living to public housing residents in New Orleans. Steven Albert showed pictures of what the neighborhood will look like when the old project is torn down.

  • HOUSING DEVELOPER:

    They won't look like warehouses. They will look like homes, so you'll be able to feel as if you're in a neighborhood — well, you are in a neighborhood.

  • NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT:

    That's right. That's right.

  • NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT:

    I'm loving it. I'm loving it.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    For Edwina Ducksworth, who's lived in this public housing project all of her life, the prospect of a new townhome was exciting.

    EDWINA DUCKSWORTH, public housing resident: I'm ready for a change. I'm ready to be safe, to be happy, to be comfortable. We don't have to worry about the shootings. We don't have to be ducking bullets.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    Ducksworth's community is one of four of New Orleans' worst public housing projects falling to the wrecking ball. In all, 4,500 units will be demolished; that means 60 percent of the city's current public housing is coming down.

    Some of the projects were earmarked for demolition before Katrina, but after units sat underwater for days, the federal government and the local housing authority became more determined to proceed.

    The new communities will look like these: low-rise, low-density townhomes, apartments, and single-family houses on tree-lined streets with manicured lawns.

    But they have stirred controversy because the new communities will not just be for poor people; they will be for families with a mix of incomes.

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