i received this in my inbox this morning:
"On Martin Luther King's birthday, after being shut out of their homes for a year and a half, residents of the St. Bernard housing development in New Orleans took matters into their own hands. They entered their apartments, without permission, to the cheers of hundreds of supporters.1 HUD (Department of Housing and Urban development), the federal agency that's supposed to help provide low-income housing, responded by suing them for monetary damages and asking a judge to throw them out of their homes—homes that are structurally intact and can be made livable with minimal investment.2,3
HUD can't—or won't—open up perfectly good housing, but it finds a way to sue the people it's supposed to serve? Join us in demanding that HUD drop its lawsuit and that Congress investigate HUD's plans to destroy public housing in New Orleans. It takes only a moment:
HUD is suing the residents because they stand in the way of HUD's plan to destroy four of New Orleans' major public housing communities. HUD wants to demolish 4500 units of low-income housing and replace them with just 800 units, less than half of which would be designated as low-income—that's about one new affordable housing unit for every ten destroyed.
HUD has tried to justify the plan by saying that the buildings are so damaged that they are dangerous to residents. That isn't true. Faculty from the Architecture Department at MIT filed papers in court saying there was no structural damage that justified demolition. In fact, the buildings are far superior to the buildings that would replace them. 4
HUD has also said it would cost more to repair the buildings than to rebuild them. That isn't true either. The cost to demolish and rebuild public housing would be over $1.04 billion. Just a third of that would be enough to clean up and even totally modernize the buildings. 5
Pushing poor people out
HUD's plan would put money in the pockets of private developers while permanently displacing thousands of low-income residents, in clear violation of HUD's mission, which, in addition to fostering home ownership, is to "…increase access to affordable housing free from discrimination." 6
After months of organizing, marching in the streets, and fighting in court, the residents of the St. Bernard public housing development took the battle to save their community one step further. They celebrated Martin Luther King Day by going home and cleaning up from the hurricane and government neglect. The residents are proving that their units are livable and making real what every politician has said is their right: the right to return. And the main force standing in their way is the federal agency that's supposed to be on their side.
Congress needs to exercise its oversight responsibility with HUD. Join us in demanding that it does while letting the residents of the St. Bernard development know we stand with them. One minute of your time can make a difference."
Thank You and Peace,
-- James, Van, Clarissa, Gabriel, Liat, and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
January 29th, 2007
1. Housing agencies sue to remove protesters, The Times Picayune, 1-23-07
New Orleans tussles over public housing, Los Angeles Times, 1-23-07
2. New Orleans: HUD Policies Limiting Housing for Poor, Truthout, 12-29-06
3. Condition of the Four New Orleans Housing Projects Slated for Demolition, Gulf Coast Fair Housing Network
5. Affordable Housing Fact Sheet, Loyola Law Clinic
6. Department of Housing and Urban Development Mission Statement
7. Ideas & Trends: Unbuilding: All Fall Down, New York Times, 11-19-06