Posted March 10, 2008 – The U.S. government must do more to return affordable housing to New Orleans , where low-income neighborhoods were washed out by Hurricane Katrina three years ago, a United Nations treaty commission ruled Friday.
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A good start would be for the feds to give displaced residents a say in the plans for poor communities, said the U.N. committee, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Advocates for the Big Easy’s low-income residents cheered the U.N.’s finding, saying it proves that their position that the federal government gave short shrift to the needs and desires of those living in notoriously poor neighborhoods like the devastated Lower Ninth Ward.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced a plan to demolish four large public housing complexes and replace them with a mixed-income model with fewer total units. A better plan, the advocates said, would be to renovate many of the old, historic structures, which would help maintain the cultural integrity of the city and at the same time provide more low-income housing more rapidly.
Last week, two consultants told the U.N. commission that the United States might be in violation of a treaty it signed against racial discrimination. U.S. officials suggested that the U.N. is not quite in touch with what’s going on in New Orleans.
"The view from the Alps is obviously different than the view from the Mississippi ," HUD spokeswoman D.J. Nordquist told The Times-Picayune. "Based on that information, it would seem that this report cannot possibly mean anything. Our plan is a vast improvement over the old paradigm of concentrating families in islands of poverty, a recipe for dependence and despair across generations."
The committee, which considered whether the United States was complying with the anti-racism treaty it signed in 1994, praised the United States for some of the steps, while panning it for others. It pointed to de facto segregation in public schools, police brutality and permitting life imprisonment of juveniles, the treaty committee singled out housing issues in the wake of Katrina, the newspaper reported.
"The committee, while noting the efforts undertaken by the (U.S. government) and civil society organizations to assist the persons displaced by Hurricane Katrina of 2005, remains concerned about the disparate impact that this natural disaster continues to have on low-income African American residents, many of whom continue to be displaced after more than two years after the hurricane," the report said.
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