New Orleans, LA – August 21, 2009 – (RealEstateRama) — Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, today held the Subcommittee’s first of two hearings assessing access to and maintenance of quality housing in New Orleans four years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.
The hearing, entitled “Implementation of the Road Home Program Four Years after Hurricane Katrina”, took place at Dillard University and featured testimony from city and state recovery authorities, the Federal government, nonprofit community and advocacy organizations, universities, developers and residents. Subcommittee members joining Congresswoman Waters included Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Congressman Al Green (D-TX), and Congressman Joseph Cao (R-LA), who represents New Orleans in Congress and was considered a member of the Subcommittee during the hearing.
“Today’s hearing on the state of Louisiana’s Road Home Program was quite telling in how far we still need to go to ensure that all homeowners who suffered terrible personal property losses during Hurricane Katrina – coupled with the additional trauma of living through such a horrific storm – can access a stable, quality and fair source of funds to fix or rebuild their homes,” said Congresswoman Waters. “I brought my Subcommittee here to New Orleans because although it has been four years since Hurricane Katrina, I wanted to reiterate to the people of this great city and to the American people that we will never forget what happened here and will never forget our collective responsibility to rebuild homes and businesses.”
To date the Louisiana Road Home Program has provided almost $8 billion dollars to approximately 125,000 homeowners. However the average award has been just over $60,000, far lower than the amount of money needed for residents of the city to engage in significant repair or rebuilding projects.
Compounding the immediate problem of low awards are disparities of many different kinds. According to the NAACP, African Americans on average have received approximately $8,000 less than white households for comparable reconstruction projects. Income, age and home title registration disparities, typically affecting minorities and the elderly, are also prevalent factors that impede access and assistance.
“The disparities that exist for individuals seeking assistance to rebuild or repair their homes are unacceptable,” said Congresswoman Waters. “It is high time to get serious and get beyond just talking about doing something to help these people: four years after Hurricane Katrina we still have individuals living in trailers, seeking additional benefits, dispersed throughout the country in unfamiliar cities, and disconnected from their families, friends, and their hometown.
“Based on what I have heard here today it is my hope that moving forward the State of Louisiana, the City of New Orleans, the management corporations, the housing authorities and the relevant community organizations can work together to ensure that the award process is reformed so that awards are available, flow more quickly, and are reflective of both market value and what the residents of this city are up against as they seek to start their lives anew.”
Congresswoman Waters will hold a second hearing at Dillard University tomorrow at 10am, entitled the “Status of the ‘Big Four’ Four Years After Hurricane Katrina,” which will focus on the future reconstruction and redevelopment of the main public housing developments in New Orleans that were heavily damaged following Hurricane Katrina.