Council President Oliver Thomas, who grew up in the Lower 9th Ward, elicited Lee's support for repairing the vast damage Katrina caused to the neighborhood's underground water system and other infrastructure. Thomas bristled at the notion of people writing off the area "because there's nobody there."According to The Road Home plan, homeowners can use the LRA money to do one of four things [Page 7 of the PDF]:
Repair – incentives to promote rehabilitation;But there is also this provision [bottom of Page 7 of PDF]:
Rebuild – financial incentives to reconstruct on the same site if repair is infeasible or not economically viable;
Buyout/Relocate – purchase of the home by the program in exchange for an agreement to resettle in Louisiana; or
Sell – voluntary sale of the home with no requirements to resettle or otherwise remain in the community.
During the process of reviewing applications to The Road Home, the LRA shall make available information about the repair, rebuilding and relocation preferences of applicants in order to inform local planning processes. In areas where a high proportion of homeowners are choosing not to invest, state or local authorities may limit access only to Buyout/Relocate and Sell programs. [my emphasis]So, as Councilman Thomas feared, precisely “because there’s nobody there,” the Lower 9th Ward - or at least parts of the Lower 9th Ward - may be written off the “Repair” or “Rebuild” parts of the plan. If half of the Lower 9th Ward does not rebuild, like the part north of Claiborne, where does that leave the other half? A lot less people means less “investment,” which may mean less resources available to those who can and do want to rebuild.
How does the “choosing not to invest” provision affect other areas with few people returning? If you want to start rebuilding now in areas of Gentilly or the East where few people have returned, do you have to wait to be eligible for the LRA money until people return and “invest”? That would certainly slow down the recovery of those areas if people who were willing to rebuild right now couldn’t because they can’t get approved for The Road Home assistance.
Or, maybe I am reading too much into that provision.