[Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris] Roberts hasn't held back when characterizing Section 8 tenants as leaches on society.That’s a ridiculous statement, especially after Katrina and the floods. With the public housing stock depleted in New Orleans and rising rents all around, those who relied on public housing before the storm can’t afford to come back to New Orleans. And, according to Roberts and the Jefferson Parish Council, they aren’t welcome next door:
"With the number of jobs out there, nobody should be on public housing unless you're ignorant or lazy," he said after Wednesday's meeting, before clarifying that he is sympathetic to people who cannot work because of disabilities.
At the request of a West Bank councilman who said low-income housing invites crime, the Jefferson Parish Council on Wednesday backed his opposition in Gretna and Terrytown to developers' applications for federal tax credits designed to replenish the storm-ravaged region's housing stock.Yes, I am sure statistics say that crime is higher in areas of concentrated low-income housing. But it is wrong to say that low-income housing causes higher crime. The social ills that caused the need for concentrated areas of low-income housing are also to blame for the crime that goes along with them. You can’t eliminate crime by eliminating low-income housing. Try fair education and workers’ rights to achieve that end.
Councilman Chris Roberts sponsored the resolution telling the Louisiana Recovery Authority that the parish government objects to any applications for tax credits to build apartment complexes or single-family homes in Gretna and Terrytown.
Mr. Roberts should also realize that many people living in public housing did have jobs. However, if you are (a) a single parent (b) with a family to support (c) and a substandard public education (d) which failed to give you the knowledge and skills required to enter the competitive job market (e) and you have a working-poor-wage job in the highly touted tourism industry (f) and have high transportation costs because you can’t afford to live near downtown where you work (g) not to mention child care costs because you have to work evenings, even with that job you would still be eligible for public housing and the lower rent would certainly help.
Living in public housing does not mean you are ignorant and lazy.
Now I am going to talk about race.
Jack Stumpf, who is “a prominent West Bank landowner” and has used tax credits before to build single-family homes in Gretna, told the T-P this:
"I would say now we're just getting a disproportionate share of the lower-income families than we had before," he said. "It's changing the whole complexion of the area."Stumpf probably did not use “complexion” to mean “the natural color, texture, and appearance of the skin.” But, I think Roberts had a particular complexion in mind when he asked for the resolution to be passed:
"You would be having folks in Orleans Parish who lived in public housing complexes into Jefferson Parish. That's just not something I'm interested in."Public housing developments in New Orleans were mostly filled with African-Americans. The “folks” Roberts is talking about are almost exclusively black folks.
Only 20 percent of the units in New Orleans’ public housing developments have reopened. Around 1,000 units are open out of 5,000 before Katrina. Those 4,000 families left without their previous homes are a specific population of mostly African-Americans that don’t have a place to return in New Orleans, and HANO has made it clear that’s fine with them:
"To the extent that there are no alternative accommodations available in New Orleans, HANO certainly has no duty to provide plaintiffs with housing in New Orleans," attorney Rachel Wisdom wrote on behalf of HANO and its administrators, HUD officials Donald Babers and William Thorson.Even with the vouchers, this specific population would be shut out by resolutions limiting or banning new low-income housing in surrounding parishes.
"It is an unfortunate result of the hurricane that many people who would like to live in New Orleans simply cannot do so at the present time," wrote Wisdom, of the New Orleans firm Stone, Pigman, Walther, Wittmann, LLC. "Plaintiffs have been provided with housing vouchers to use anywhere they want, whether in New Orleans, as some have done, or in nearby Louisiana communities or those out of state."
Another important point to remember is that the black population of New Orleans was disproportionately affected by the floods. I have broken it down before thusly:
Seventy-five percent of the African-American residents in New Orleans was affected by Katrina’s floods while only half of New Orleans’ white residents was affected. With a population breakdown of 67% African-American and 27% white in pre-Katrina New Orleans, that means more than 240,000 African-Americans were effected compared to around 64,000 whites. Therefore, while there are 2.5 times more black than white residents in New Orleans, 3.75 times more black residents were affected by the storm.One would expect more African-Americans to be affected by the floods because there are more African-Americans in New Orleans. My point is that not only a higher number of African-Americans were flooded out, a higher percentage of the total black population was affected. That makes it disproportionate.
So, disproportionately more African-Americans are trying to move back to an area that has a housing shortage and higher prices for available housing. While this is not racist, it only accentuates the problems African-Americans are having moving back, which is reflected by recent population numbers [PDF] that say the white population is at 60 percent of what it was before Katrina but the black population is at 27 percent of the pre-Katrina population.
What *is* racist is the passing of resolutions and ordinances that make it even harder for African-Americans to return. I am not talking individual racism. I am talking about institutional racism – actions by an institution that, no matter what their original intent, have an end result that is racist.
The resolution passed by the Jefferson Parish Council along with the ordinance passed by the St. Bernard Council making it harder for non-white people to rent in St. Bernard combined with a disproportionately higher number of African-Americans trying to move back to the area as well as a disproportionately higher number of African-Americans displaced by public housing development closures would have an end result making it harder for African-Americans to move back to the New Orleans area.
It doesn’t matter what the intentions of the councils were when they voted. The end result affects one race disproportionately more than another. That is racism.