Thursday, April 13, 2006


“A plan about us, without us, is not for us,”

N.O. residents have concerns about LRA plan

Advocate staff writer

NEW ORLEANS — A plan drafted by Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s Louisiana Recovery Authority to help storm victims repair, rebuild or sell houses damaged or destroyed by hurricanes Katrina and Rita is dubbed “The Road Home,” but displaced eastern New Orleanian Doris Paige said Wednesday she sees no map on the horizon.

Blanco said she was looking for positive feedback on the housing plan, but message boards for residents to post their comments were littered with numerous negative remarks.

One board that asked what residents liked most about the plan contained the remark, “As an insured homeowner, NOT MUCH!” Another resident wrote, “At this point, not anything.”

Still another wrote simply, “It’s a plan.” And another said, “At least somebody is doing something FINALLY.”A board that asked what was least liked about the plan contained these comments: “Too complicated of a program,” “Penalizing homeowners with insurance” and “No questions answered.”

A board that asked how to improve the plan attracted this remark: “A house without furniture is not a home. It’s a cave.”

Another board where homeowners could place green dots to indicate whether they plan to repair, rebuild, relocate or sell lured an equally large number of dots in the repair and rebuild sections, far more than the relocate or sell sections.

Under the housing portion of the plan, state or local authorities might limit or ban rebuilding in areas where a “high proportion” of homeowners choose not to return. That would allow the state to drive decisions on which neighborhoods to raze.

The plan does not define “high proportion.” LRA executive director Andy Kopplin has said he thinks people should be allowed to rebuild unless about 80 to 90 percent of homeowners in their area want to move.

“Instead of allowing residents in the most impacted communities who are receiving the least resources to participate in the program by their choice, the state’s proposal allows the state or city to declare entire communities to be non-viable and then deny residents in those areas assistance to rebuild,” the statement from the local residents’ groups said.

The local residents’ groups also criticized the housing plan’s open houses in New Orleans and Lake Charles and the plan’s 10-day public comment period, which began last Thursday.

“To only have two days of hearings devoted to the plan for allocation of the biggest chunk of money towards disaster relief to date is unconscionable,” the organizations’ statement said.

“Moreover, to only have a public commenting period of ten calendar days ... works to deny poor and black people a voice or input.”

“A plan about us, without us, is not for us,” the groups added.

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