Eviction struggle highlights Katrina housing crisis
By David Hoskins
Jan 12, 2007, 13:28
On Jan. 4, eighteen families of the Woodlands complex in New Orleans assembled for a press conference to protest their eviction by Johnson Properties Group, LLC. Minutes before the conference was to convene, organizers received a call from Johnson Properties Group agreeing not to enforce the eviction until at least Jan. 8.
The conference continued as scheduled with tenants vocalizing their anger at being evicted from their homes at Woodlands. Although the tenants were relieved at the temporary stay in their eviction, their struggle is far from over. As Common Ground Legal Team member Soleil Rodrigue points out, there is still a real need to “make sure that everyone has a place to be and has a place to sleep with their families and their children and that no one will leave here and go into the streets”.
Once the evictions are finalized 16 families with close to 40 children will have nowhere to go unless alternative housing is secured for them. Two families were able to find housing prior to the Jan. 4 eviction date. Along with the loss of housing, families are also losing job-training and employment programs provided at the Woodlands, making it less likely that they will be able to afford housing once the evictions are finalized.
The Woodlands had been managed by Common Ground Collective as a community-based initiative to provide relief and training to those suffering following Hurricane Katrina. The complex, whose rents were the lowest in the city, was sold out from under Common Ground’s management to Johnson Properties Group, at which time the new owners aggressively pursued the eviction of current residents.
Katrina survivors face national housing crisis
The Woodlands tragedy is just a snapshot of the greater housing crisis facing the survivors of Katrina more than a year after the U.S. national and state governments stood by as they lost their homes and loved ones. Housing costs across New Orleans have escalated 70 to 300 percent over pre-Katrina rates.
Government promises of funding for housing aid and recovery have gone unfulfilled. A recent federal appeals court decision gave the Bush administration permission to shut down a post-Katrina program that provided housing payments to 4,200 survivors living in Texas.
A lower court had ordered the program to restart after it was found that over the summer FEMA had sent vague letters containing contradictory computer codes to families instead of uniform letters that clearly explained when and why the funding would be cut off. The appeals’ ruling allows FEMA to once again break its promise to the survivors of Katrina.
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