New Orleans: The Big Incompetent

Road Home Program Took a Wrong Turn in Mid-City Restorations

Sometimes it seems as though “Brownie” and “official” New Orleans deserved each other — why does Ray Nagin still have a job?

This from the excellent monthly newsletter of the National Hazards Center:

Road Home Program Took a Wrong Turn in Mid-City Restorations

A problematic program meant to help Louisianans rebuild after Hurricane Katrina doled out more than $3.2 million to refurbish houses that will soon be rubble, according to a recent article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Louisiana’s Road Home program, now managed by the Louisiana Recovery Authority, has had no shortage of financial woes and missteps. The program has suffered management issues, budget shortfalls in the billions, and the faltering faith of the pubic since its inception in 2006.

The latest tumble, however, comes from a state plan to flatten 70 acres in New Orleans’ Mid-City for a hotly debated medical campus to replace the hurricane-damaged Charity Hospital and add a Veteran’s Administration hospital, according to the article. The same pot of federal housing funds that support the Road Home program would be used to buy out the freshly restored homes.

“That the state was strongly considering these sites was no secret to the public, but the final site selections for the hospitals had not been made,” Louisiana Recovery Authority Spokesperson Christina Stephens told the Times-Picayune. “We simply could not deny homeowners grants if we were not sure they were in the footprint of the new hospitals.”

Homeowners, it seems, did have some reason to hope that their neighborhood would eventually be spared. Opponents of the sprawling campus and historic preservationists aiming to save Charity and the Mid-City district have worked hard to keep the plan from coming to fruition. As recently as mid-November, Louisiana’s Commission on Streamlining Government recommended conducting an independent study of an alternate plan to retrofit Charity into a state-of-the-art hospital rather than rebuilding, according to another Times-Picayune article.

Despite a state budget shortage and an ongoing dispute with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on what the federal portion of replacing Charity will be, the state has begun buyout offers in the area, according to the Times-Picayune.

Meanwhile, the Road Home program has started to bounce back from some of its earlier setbacks, freeing up funds earlier this year for low-income grantees and recently making good on promises to help residentsinstall mitigation measures, thanks to some help from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

Still, those grants that were wasted could have offset rebuilding in other areas and will now cost the state even more if it moves ahead with the hospital campus, according to Stephens.

“The state will base its buyout offerings on current appraised home values, meaning that homeowners who did rebuild their homes likely will get a higher buyout amount,” she told the Times-Picayune.

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About Bruce

Work for sustainable development of small islands and the Chesapeake Bay; ex-Peace Corps (Volunteer and staff) in LA & Caribbean; cruised Caribbean on S/Y Meander for three years; like small tropical islands, French canals, Umbria, Tasmania, and NZ. Married 52 years to the late Kincey Burdett Potter (see President of the now-sunsetting Island Resources Foundation.
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