Anne Rochell Konigsmark, USA TODAY, June 14, 2006
NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced a plan Wednesday to rebuild the bulk of the city’s public housing that was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina.
More than 1,000 public-housing units will reopen by the end of August, enabling more of the city’s poor to come home.
HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson also said the agency will increase the amount of its rent-subsidy vouchers and tear down several crumbling complexes so they can be redeveloped as mixed-income neighborhoods.
“We want to ensure the public housing of the future is a source of pride for all residents of the city,” Jackson said.
Today, 1,000 units are occupied in five of the least-damaged housing projects. Before Katrina, residents occupied about 5,000 units in 11 complexes.
Former public-housing residents have expressed outrage at the slow return of subsidized housing to New Orleans, even accusing the government of purposely keeping them out. Jackson said HUD was waiting for a green light from local leaders and for the return of basic services such as utilities and schools. “We couldn’t move any faster than we’re moving now,” he said.
At least a dozen former public-housing residents are staging a round-the-clock protest by living in tents on a grassy median outside the St. Bernard housing complex, the city’s largest. A spray-painted sign reading “Survivors Village” hangs between two trees.