Saturday, December 8, 2007

NO "Road Home " Help for renters!

There’s no Road Home for Renters.
The struggles of renters are going largely unnoticed in the mainstream press. Access to housing is a basic human right. It is not acceptable that the most vulnerable populations, the lowest-income, predominantly minority, immigrants, elderly, disabled, and homeless are disproportionately excluded from assistance and have the fewest resources to fall back on are the households that were most affected by the hurricane.
New Orleans was 68% black pre- Katrina and 57 percent of pre-Katrina residents were renters. It is a fact that 45.7% housing units that were destroyed by the 2005 levee breaks and hurricanes were rental units, this is80% of the rental units that were available before the storm, yet 80% of the Road Home money is allocated for homeowners. The rental programs funded through the Road Home will eventually rebuild just about half of the destroyed rental housing.The lack of Affordable Rental Units Of the 35,000 new or restored rental units, only 6,000 would be affordable to households with incomes at or below 40% of the local median income. The vast majority of uninhabitable rental units were previously occupied by low-income households, what are they to do if they want to go home. Because of the severe reduction in the number of units available, rents have risen dramatically. The rental prices are over 75% higher and in some case over 200% higher than pre-Katrina rental prices. A good indication of the rental prices is HUD. HUD has raised the Fair Market Rents in New Orleans for a two bedroom apartment from $676.00 to$978.00, this is a 45% increase. This is a big increase but it is not even close to the increase in the actual rental prices. All other living expenses have gone up yet a person living on Social Security or SSI or other retirement program have not seen any increase that would allow them to be able to afford the increased living expenses. Not only are minimum-wage earners currently unable to afford rents in New Orleans, but so are other key members of the community and economy. Homelessness has doubled since pre-Katrina. People are living in units that have not been fixed because there is nowhere else for them to go. Salaried workers such as hotel clerks, clergy members, rookie cops, building inspectors, home health aides, and elementary school teachers are among those that don't earn enough for a two-bedroom apartment. Providing payments to homeowners to rebuild is essential for the recovery, but we can't forget about the renters, who are essential and who still can’t come home. LRA promise to give some displaced Louisiana renters the opportunity to become homeowners. However, this promise rings hollow when you consider the fact that LRA only provides $50 million or 0.4% of the $10.4 billion to establish a first-time home owners program for displaced people. Although $50 million seems like a lot of money, it can only help approximately 245 displaced families or individuals, this is a outrageously small fraction of displaced residents getting help to purchase a home. What this all means is that, all of the Disaster Survivors haven't received, nor will they receive the housing assistance they so desperately need. Louisiana had nearly 80% of the storm damage from two hurricanes received only 55% of federal relief funds. Mississippi, with 23% of the damage, received 45% of the relief funds. This is far more money proportionately, and they received it a full six months ahead of Lousisan. Our Road Home progress was delayed six months due to this disparity.

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