National Call to Action: Support housing rights in New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina anniversary
Dear supporters of housing rights,
The Right to Return for all displaced New Orleans residents is under attack, and Survivors Village requests your local solidarity and support by organizing an action around the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Please see the attached PDF guide to find out how. In the months since Katrina it has become clear that the most devastated residents of the city were, and continue to be, poor people of color, and foremost among them the families who were assisted by public housing. A just recovery of New Orleans can only be accomplished in New Orleans if voices across the country demand that HUD reopen public housing and give fair treatment to public housing residents.
Even though the vast majority of public housing units sustained little or no hurricane damage, the federal government has locked out nearly 20,000 public housing residents from their homes. HUD has spent over $1.5 million on fencing and barricades to keep residents out while plans brew to demolish 5,000 units of public housing in New Orleans and exchange them for more upscale mixed-income developments.
While some have praised the principles of mixed-income redevelopment to reform public housing, for local public housing residents it comes down to one burning issue: when implemented, mixed-income redevelopment typically reduces the number of affordable housing units by as much as 80-90 percent. In New Orleans, demolition and redevelopment would permanently displace over 15,000 low income, predominantly African American families. In the midst of the city's current housing crisis any proposal to demolish solid viable housing should be rejected out of hand.
Public housing residents have come out in droves to demand the reopening of their homes. Since February, organizers have put on dozens of rallies with steady increases in support from the community and media throughout the process. Most recently, a peaceful demonstration and speak out held on July 4 drew over 300 supporters. As an act of protest residents have initiated Survivors Village, a tent city lining the edges of the guarded and gated St. Bernard Public Housing Development.
Currently a lawsuit has been filed against HUD by the Advancement Project for violations of the Fair Housing Act, illegal eviction of public housing tenants and purposeful neglect of housing unit conditions after Katrina, contributing to mass displacement of thousands of residents.
New Orleans as the Federal Test Case for Public Housing Eradication
The eradication of public housing is not a new phenomenon to either New Orleans or many other cities across the U.S. If HUD is successful in its proposed plan to demolish New Orleans public housing, then the city will have lost over 85 percent of its public housing stock in only the last ten years. Left unchallenged, public housing demolition in New Orleans will become an accepted precedent; reform will be synonymous with elimination, and the reconstruction of New Orleans will serve only a small fraction of those displaced.
Support us this August
This is a 'call to action' for grassroots housing and justice organizations to join the housing rights struggle on and around the August 29 anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. On that week the media will be searching for Katrina anniversary news. It will be a perfect opportunity to unify the fight for a just recovery of New Orleans with national solidarity of housing rights across the nation. We must be a chorus of voices calling for the end of all housing rights violations by the federal government, and point to the battle for the Right of Return for all in New Orleans as an imperative.
Please see the attached Right of Return PDF packet for local and national ideas, and support information. ...