HUD and the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) released the results of the long awaited research of residents of New Orleans public housing displaced by Hurricane Katrina. HANO, currently held in receivership, commissioned the School of Urban and Public Affairs of the University of Texas at Arlington. The purpose of the research was to determine which residents wanted to return to New Orleans to re-occupy the public housing units from which they were evacuated and which residents were interested in other options. The contract called for the researchers to contact each of the 5,146 households who lived in HANO public housing as of August 28, 2005, the day before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.
The intentions of the displaced residents has been a matter of considerable controversy, as HUD proceeds with plans for demolition and redevelopment of four of the largest public housing complexes without providing for one-for-one replacement and the right to return for all tenants who chose to do so.
The research team reports that despite extraordinary outreach efforts, they were only able to find people in 2,553 of the 5,146 households (49.6%) and were able to interview 2,109 residents (40 %) who agreed to participate in the study.
Of the 2,109 people interviewed, half (50.5%) were residing in New Orleans, with most of the others in Texas and other parts of Louisiana, although respondents were located in 36 states. Nineteen percent of the total were back in the public housing units they occupied prior to the storm.
Another 31% want to return to New Orleans, for a total of 71.5% whose preference is to return home. Of these households, 28% either were back in their units or wanted to return to their precise units. Another 20% want to live in New Orleans public housing, but would live in any available public housing unit. Over half (52%) wanted to live in New Orleans, and receive Section 8 housing vouchers.
Of 28.5% of respondents who did not indicate that they wanted to move back to New Orleans, 10% want to live in public housing elsewhere and 66% want a Section 8 housing voucher. Finally, 24% of the remaining respondents, or 7% of all respondents, did not report a particular preference for housing location or form.
HUD’s press release on the report used the results to justify their plans for demolition and redevelopment of much of the public housing in New Orleans. As quoted in the release, C. Donald Babers, the HUD-appointed HANO board chairman, said “This survey illustrates what HANO and HUD have been saying for the past two years. The vast majority of HANO’s families want better housing in safer communities. We are creating a vibrant, safe environment where children and families can thrive. These residents deserve something better than what they had and our plan will give it to them.”
The fact that the researchers were unable to find over half of the displaced residents indicates that HUD’s assertions that most displaced HANO public housing households were being assisted through the Disaster Voucher Program or other programs is less than accurate. The researchers report that of the resident data provided to them by HUD, 75% of the data were “incorrect or useless.”
To read the report, go to www.nlihc.org/