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Possibilities for Public Housing in Post-Katrina New Orleans

On December 21, 2007, the New Orleans City Council voted to demolish four public housing developments. Law Professor Stacy Seicshnaydre discusses the search for solutions.

Hurricane Katrinashuttered four sprawling public housing complexes in New Orleans, scattering residents across the country. Almost three years later, the city is still struggling for solutions.


One of the developments slated for demolition.

On December 21, 2007, the New Orleans City Council voted to demolish the developments but not without violent protests from some in the community who charged the city's plan for redevelopment would discourage the return of displaced low-income residents back to New Orleans.

It is tempting to view Hurricane Katrina as the singular force behind the current affordable housing crisis in the greater New Orleans area. But other enduring forces are at work, according to Stacy E. Seicshnaydre, Associate Professor of Law and Director of Tulane University's Civil Litigation Clinic, who examined the history of public housing in America to offer solutions to a crisis that has gripped this city as it rebuilds.

"we confront a false dichotomy that would have us choose between affordable housing supplied on a segregated basis or none at all"

In an extensive article written for the Tulane Law Review, Seicshnaydre argues: "much like in the early days of affordable housing development, we confront a false dichotomy that would have us choose between affordable housing supplied on a segregated basis or none at all. In other words, we may reopen public housing exactly as it existed before the storm or adopt a redevelopment agenda that would be focused primarily on blight removal and result in a drastic reduction in the number of affordable units available to low-income people."

Her research offers four recommendations: reject the false dichotomy and embrace a just public housing policy-one that would be resident conscious, be focused on one-for-one replacement, promote inclusionary zoning, and include both project-based replacement as well as vouchers.

Excerpted from The More Things Change, the More they Stay the Same: In Search of a Just Public Housing Policy Post-Katrina, originally published in full at 81 Tul. L. Rev. 1263-1275 (2007).

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu