Monday, July 11, 2011

Jumping into Housing! Whats fair about it?

It began in New Orleans, Louisiana. The idea that hard working people in our cities should be afforded fair, reasonably priced housing. Since one of the first housing projects – St. Thomas, which was built in the early 40's – America has seen an ample growth in housing developments and acts/laws of mandating fair housing. Obviously, humans aren’t perfect, and issues of fairness have become evident. In New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita were catalyst to the ongoing fight for fair housing. Currently in New Orleans, two major issues have collided to cause one main problem. The low capacity of affordable housing and low job opportunities in the city especially near affordable housing projects. The biggest fight for fair housing advocates right now is trying to implement reasonable conditions for creating new affordable housing under the new master plan. While the master plan currently is just one big open-ended outline that was created to be filled in, the people of New Orleans are owed the efforts of Fair housing. That’s where Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center comes in.

Their most recent victory came just this summer as illustrated in this article by Jordan Flaherty.
Similar to this case is the Havens vs. Coleman case. For a description of that legal action, click here.

So here’s my take on all of this: I know I’m not blind, and I've yet to encounter a logical disconnect between affordable fair housing and successful favorable communities. “Property Value,” “Safety” and “Character of Community” are the buzz-words of opponents to affordable housing and where I detect opposition, but at the same time how can anyone not see “assumptions” as the controlling variable.

For example, the common assumption of a housing development is there will be an increase in violence in the area. How true is this? Before Katrina the developments did have high concentrations of violence but was it in the developments, around the developments, or caused by the residents? And did violence in New Orleans magically disappear after the Big 4 disappeared? Is the root cause for the violence a lack of opportunity? Many of the younger generation descendants of tenants were less educated and for lack of a better word, were lost. A lot of those people gravitated towards violent and criminal acts because they knew no better and nothing was given to them. I understand you must tighten up your own bootstraps but how do you do that when they were never given to you? The reason I bring this up is if we were to introduce developments into neighborhoods with opportunities for education, jobs, and easy transportation, couldn't we eliminate that threat of violence? Once you’ve addressed the issue of violence, the “property value” concern diminishes. It makes since that the higher the violence rate the lower the value of the property, because who wants to pay a lot to move into a dangerous community.

And as for this “Character of Community” concern, in my opinion it is inflated as a barrier to keep new people out. It’s just, plain NIMBYism otherwise known as Not in my back Yard. Many New Orleans area residents will do almost anything in their power to keep new comers out the community. It’s discriminatory and cannot be supported as logical.

Yes it's a storm of conditions and concerns but I have to think that I am not the only one that believes this is a childish pandora of paranoia. People's lives aren’t getting any better but as long as the communities don't have to introduce new housing units, it's okay? The ESPN channel has a football segment called "C'Mon MAN!" where they show big mistakes in the game. As I listen to the reasons in opposition to fair and affordable housing developments, all I can think is ......."C'Mon Man!"

I'll leave it at that to allow for some deep reflection. More To Come.


  1. I am happy that you wrote about this issue for several reason. The first being, I currently live in the St. Thomas/River Garden community. As an advocate of disenfranchised communities, my concerns comes in where organizations like HRI, the management firm of the 'new' St. Thomas, comes in to redevelop the community without and social programs to help the under-served cross out of the poverty line.

    Therefore, my gripe with this is LEGALLY, this management firms of our former 'projects' are supposed to provide programs for the community yet, they don't exist.

  2. You are right!! The affordable housing that does have these programs inturn has no opportunities for the people that live there in the community. For example, Schools,jobs, & stores.