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HUD Considers Allowing Public Housing Residents to Wait for Demolitions in Their Own Homes

US Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin recently met with the US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Alphonso Jackson, to negotiate the possible return of some New Orleans public housing residents to their homes .

In those meetings, Jackson said he would consider reopening more storm-damaged units to low-income people forced from their homes 16 months ago. Many have lived in Texas and elsewhere since the storm, unable to return.

“We’re looking at, where possible, to phase in many of these developments,” Jackson said recently. “Where we can save units for a period of time, we will do that. But where we can’t, we need to bring the units down.” …

Waters, who plans hearings in New Orleans next month on the city’s housing shortage, said HUD can begin razing the worst projects while allowing residents to live in those that had less water damage.

Waters is the incoming chair of the subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity for the House Financial Services Committee, which Barney Frank chairs. Without a call for cessation of all demoliton plans and a Congressional investigation, Waters’ advocacy may only amount to St. Bernard residents coming home now and getting evicted later, when the public housing demolitions begin.

Elsewhere, Barney Frank was recently heard correctly referring to the New Orleans housing crisis as “ethnic cleansing through inaction.” He has also recently been heard taking some clearly progressive economic positions :

[I]t’s a problem that we have in America, and it’s a problem that is worldwide…. the increasing separation of the well-being of the average citizen from overall economic growth.

[I]t has generally been an accepted fact that economic growth is a good thing and that the rising tide will lift all boats….

The rising tide lifts all boats has always been a problem. If you think about that analogy, the rising tide is a very good idea if you have a boat. But if you are too poor to afford a boat and you are standing tiptoe in the water, the rising tide goes up your nose. And so that’s a mistake….

One of the consequences of this separation between economic growth and the well-being of the great majority of citizens is that an increasing number of citizens don’t care about economic growth. Not surprising. Not only do they not benefit, but in many cases they get the short-term disruptive effects.

But the question remains: will Barney Frank and Maxine waters stop the ultimate destruction of public housing in New Orleans?

Barney Frank and Maxine Waters need to feel strongly supported by their constituents in taking uncompromising stands for the rights of public housing residents to return to—and keep—their homes.

(Cross-posted on Gulf Coast Fair Housing Network.)

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