Lack of access to affordable housing continues to be one of the biggest obstacles facing displaced residents of New Orleans who want to return home. Thousands of families are still locked out of their homes in public housing buildings–buildings that could be reinhabited if government officials would be putting the needs of the people first. To give you an idea of how sturdy these structures are, this is one of the buildings at the St Bernard housing complex:
Today some of those families and their supporters decided to take matters into their own hands, in honor of the Martin Luther King Jr Day holiday. The fence surrounding the St Bernard housing complex was broken through, and volunteers helped families clean and gut the homes they’ve been locked out of since they were forced to evacuate after Katrina.
This is from a press release sent out to explain the action:
“’Our homes are livable, and we are cleaning them out so that we can live in them,’ says Sharon Seans Jasper, a St. Bernard resident and organizer. ‘We will not let the city destroy them.’
‘The residents who will be cleaning their apartments have current leases and therefore have a legal right to enter their homes,’ says rally organizer Endesha Juakali of Survivors Village. ‘However, the police may not honor this right. Therefore public housing residents will be evoking the spirit of Dr. King on this Martin Luther King Day.’
HANO and HUD plan to demolish over 5000 units of affordable public housing, housing that is desperately needed for families that wish to move back to New Orleans. In a market where rents have increased between 70 and 300 percent since Katrina, inflated rents and the lack of subsidized housing has been a major factor in preventing evacuees from returning to their homes. Finding private landlords that accept housing vouchers is extremely difficult, and finding affordable housing without subsidization is nearly impossible for public housing recipients.”