New Orleans Groups Demand Federal Programs for Housing, Jobs, and Gulf Disaster

New Orleans, La. C3/Hands Off Iberville and other New Orleans Community groups will hold a press conference on June 29 at 5:30 PM in front of the Housing Authority of New Orleans headquarters to demand the federal government create a massive federal public works program to address the current housing, jobs, and Gulf oil spill crises. We will then attend HANO’s public hearing on their 2010-2011 annual plan and deliver this message to the federal-government controlled agency.

Instead of cutbacks planned by HANO, and other city, state, and federal agencies and officials across the country, we need an expansion of government services to meet unmet and pressing human needs. This initiative can be financed by immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan and closing foreign military bases, ending and forcing repayment of bank and other corporate bailouts, and taxing the wealthy.

New Orleans remains devastated 5 years after Hurricane Katrina. Affordable housing remains scarce, with the city having the nation’s highest percentage of renters–41%–paying at last half their wages in rent and utilities. Homelessness has quadrupled, per capita, since Katrina, while over 34,000 families are on waiting lists for public housing and section 8 vouchers–and thousands more would sign up if HANO reopened the waiting lists! Charity hospital, the major provider of health care pre-Katrina, remains closed–not because of a “natural” disaster, but rather due to the very human, and intentional actions taken by Governors Blanco, and now Jindal, to kill public health care.

New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast are now being hit with the oil drilling disaster that is putting thousands more of people out of work and destroying communities and the environment. These city and regional disasters are on top of the worst economic depression since the 1930s facing the entire country, with over 20% of the workforce either unemployed or underemployed.

How are governments from the national to local level responding to these multiple crises? With more cuts to social services, further privatizations, while the wars and bailouts of the wealthy, and their corporations, continue. HANO’s proposed cutbacks for fiscal year 2010-2011 are representative of the austerity measures being taken by Republicans and Democratic Party-controlled legislatures, administrations, and agencies across the country. HANO executive director David Gilmore, who has played a major role in public housing demolition and privatization across the country over the last generation, is continuing that legacy in New Orleans. The 2010-2011 agency plan he crafted, in collaboration with the Obama administration, includes:

  • Demolition of all 127 apartments at the Florida development, and no plans to rebuild. Before its redevelopment, pre-Katrina, Florida had 734 units (see p. 33, HANO Annual Plan, 2010-11)
  • Demolition of approximately 500 scattered site apartments (of a total of over 700), with no plans to rebuild. HANO is working with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority to decide their “best use”–i.e. handing over highly valued real estate parcels to developers (see pp. 34-43; 63, Attachment K, p,.10; HANO Annual Plan, 2010-11 ).
  • Privatization and demolition at Iberville. HANO plans to apply for a HOPE VI grant to “redevelop” the Iberville project into a “mixed income” development. As happened at St. Thomas, “redevelopment” and “mixed income” are code words for drastically reducing the current stock of approximately 850 public housing apartments, resulting in further displacement, hardship, and reduction in affordable housing (see p. 30, HANO Annual Plan 2010-11 )

Is there an alternative to the austerity and further misery planned by HANO and other levels of government? Do we have to sit idly by while BP destroys the Gulf and the government subordinates itself to these corporate criminals, relegated to providing security and public relations services? The success of US’s public works program shows there is an alternative: 75 years ago the Civil Works Administration, in four and a half months built or repaired 33,850 public building, carried out 3,220 flood control projects, built from scratch 1,000 airports and 3,700 playgrounds. Within the first week of its operation, it employed 1.1 million workers and employment peaked at 4.2 million. The total cost of the project was $30 billion in 2006 dollars.

In 6 years the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built 116,000 bridges, 5,600 new schools, 30,000 new public buildings, financed thousands of public murals, put on thousands of plays and concerts, paid for local histories and employed nearly eight million people –in a country with less than half our present population.

We can, and must, do it again.

New Orleans Community Groups Demand Federal Government Create Massive Public Works Program to Address Housing, Jobs, and Gulf Spill Crises.

No to Austerity. Public Works to Stop the Spill, Clean up the Gulf, and Rebuild America and World.

Press Conference: Tuesday, June 29, 5:30 PM at the HANO office, 4100 Touro St., New Orleans

For more information, contact Jay Arena at 504-520-9521

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