Fwd: [NOLA_C3_Discussion] re: The LRA: the Road to Hell
- --- elizabeth cook <yocandra42@...> wrote:
If you want to understand what poor and working people
face in new orleans please read MS Cook's discussion
below. Its long but worth it.
The LRA: The Road to Hell by Elizabeth Cook Thursday,
Aug. 31, 2006 at 3:55 PM yocandra42@...
The LRA pays lip service to publicly funded recovery,
and serves the agenda for the Bush administration, for
the privatization of recovery. I attended an LRA
(Louisiana Recovery Authority) meeting yesterday,
where they unveiled their "plan" for assistance to
owners of rental property. This plan will provide $869
million over 24 months for the restoration of rental
properties in affected Louisiana parishes.
Only catch is, it's not funded yet. However, the LRA
representative, Fred Duplantis, seemed to think there
would be no problem funding it, as it has a kind of
"pre-approval" from the Department of Housing and
Fred Duplantis is a "technical specialist" with ICF
International, the firm hired, at a cost of $87
million, to do this job for the LRA: "Under the
contract, the ICF team will provide outreach to
homeowners and assistance with the application and
eligibility process, in accordance with state
guidelines, for qualified homeowners and small rental
Let me tell you right off the bat, that at least two
outrageous items came out in this meeting:
These monies will be available to "new investors" of
rental property, including universities and employers,
and non-profit corporations who want to get in on the
While the David-Bacon Act (prevailing wages for
federally financed work) does apply in the application
of these monies, one homeowner complained about having
to pay such high wages. The ICF fellow, Fred Duplantis
said not to worry, he knows how to get around the
Davis-Bacon Act, and would meet with her after the
meeting. Apparently, his salary is a form of public
investment to circumvent public laws.
That's about the time that I disrupted the meeting.
Basically I addressed these issues:
I said that I find it appalling that there would be
discussion as to how to get around the Davis-Bacon
I stated that this is a "set the bar low plan",
designed only to rebuild 18% of the rental stock lost
in south Louisiana , and that this proposed plan
doesn't begin to address the need for affordable
rental stock in the area.
I suggested, strongly, that this program is designed
to be a pay-off to developers and non-profit entities.
It is a first-come, first-serve program, and those
with the resources to apply first, will be the
organized entities that already have their feet on the
I stated that these funds should be earmarked for
those owners of rental properties who lived here prior
to Katrina, as many home owners, like renters,
continue to be scattered throughout the country.
Fred Duplantis said the LRA, in this rental assistance
program, owner-occupants will be favored. It is
difficult to see how this stated objective is factored
into their formula though, as the competitive
application process will favor those individuals, and
most likely, organizations, who can hit the ground
running and be the first to apply.
My guess is the LRA, with instructions from the
federal government, designed a program to give lip
service to the desperate need for restored rental
housing in the city. I think it is a plan intended to
drive the low income home owners, those who provided
affordable housing pre-Katrina, out of the city, and
pay-off the political supporters of the Bush agenda:
developers, non-profits keen on securing funds,
universities as in Tulane, a key Bush administration
supporter. The agenda: keep public housing closed and
drive out low income renters and home owners. Squeeze
the working class out of existence, basically,
privatize all services, and forget about restoring
public services pre-Katrina to any great extent.
Those workers who choose to remain in the city face a
bleak scenario: higher rental rates, higher utility
rates, competition to enroll their children in
privatized, charter schools, and a health care system
still in crisis.
Now these rental assistance funds will be available to
those who agree to supply "affordable" rental housing
for three years. The formula for affordable housing
provided is, in Orleans Parish: $665 for an
efficiency, $723 for a one bedroom, $840 for a 2
bedroom, $1,086 for a 3 bedroom and $1,250 for a 4
After three years, rents can convert to market rates,
and if public housing is still closed, and paltry
assistance for rental owners still the case, New
Orleans will be able to look forward to yet another
spike in rents.
This is not adequate rent control by any means, and
again, looks and sounds like lip service to the
concept of rent control and affordable housing.
Pre-Katrina, New Orleans had 70% of the rental stock
in south Louisiana; if you include St. Tammany Parish,
it was 85%. New Orleans has a huge stake in this,
obviously, as we need our affordable rental stock
back, along with public housing, in order to enforce
the Right of Return for New Orleans citizens.
In Orleans Parish, 70% of rental property sustained
major or severe damage, so Orleans Parish will get the
lions share of the funds: $612,235,354. The numbers of
units in Orleans Parish that sustained severe damage
is 43,226. Calcasieu Parish, for example, had just 465
severly damaged units; they will receive $6,586,069.
612 million dollars sounds like a lot of money, but if
you do the math, it is just 14 thousand dollars for
every severly damaged rental unit. For Calcasieu
Parish it would be the same: 14 thousand dollars per
But that's if everyone received a check who qualified.
What is actually planned is "funding available through
a series of competitive application rounds", to begin,
theoretically, in November of this year.
Now I'm no fan necessarily of landlords, particularly
slum landlords and absentee landlords who gouged their
tenants pre and post Katrina. What we will have here
though, with this program if it goes through as
designed, is intense competition between New Orleans
natives who owned rental property, and new investors,
including non-profits, who want to get in on the
During the meeting, one very vocal woman said she was
going to get on the horn and inform her favorite
non-profits to begin the inquiry process for these
The LRA fact sheet on this program states who will be
eligible to receive these funds: current landlords,
any new investor, churches, nonprofits, universities,
employer-sponsored housing, housing sponsors and owner
occupants in 3-4 units.
There is going to be a lot of competition for these
paltry funds. Those who will be screwed are the
owner-occupants who don't have the resources to return
and get in on the process early, natives and residents
of New Orleans who are part of the diaspora.
To put it bluntly, the LRA has the citizens by the
Let's look at the elevation requirements. This is
another tool being implemented by the LRA to squeeze
the low-income home owners out of existence. FEMA
releases its base flood elevation maps as an advisory.
It is the LRA requiring home owners to raise their
homes, beginning September 1st, as a requirement.
This is absurd on the face of a very man-made
disaster: the LRA should be applying its lobbying
resources to force the federal government to do the
right thing: repair and rebuild the levees as they
should have been built in the first place, and restore
Requiring the raising of houses, no matter how high,
is an exercise in futility. $58 million will be
allocated by FEMA for the raising of structures, but
this won't begin to cover the costs, and many simply
won't have the resources to raise their structures. If
the levees break again, as they are likely to do,
three feet higher won't make a bit of difference in
The LRA is the front man for the Bush administration
agenda: putting burdensome elevation requirements on
already desperate and squeezed home owners, still
waiting for that first check to be cut by the LRA, is
to take the heat off of a failed physical
infrastucture, the levees.
The LRA board of directors is composed largely of
politically well connected corporate representatives
and citizens, and certainly, their actions so far
reveal their bias.
The failure of the LRA to scream and lobby for its
citizens, and certainly someone should be screaming,
that it purports to represent, for adequate
restoration of all affordable rental housing
long-term, not just 18%, not just for three years, and
for reconstruction of all public services, unmasks the
privatized reconstruction process for what it is: a
front for those who would profit, and have profited
off of the misery of Louisiana citizens who love their
home, their cities and towns, and want to return.
Billions have already poured into Louisiana, and if
you drive around New Orleans, there is very little to
show for it. In the complex and criminal layering of
contractors and subcontractors in monies already
spent, vast profits are being reaped by a very few,
and our governor and legislature, and local officials
are visibly mum on this.
Long story short: no one is fighting for our true
interests, and a few are divvying up the bounty.
The Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans is
desperately waiting for FEMA funding to repair its
infrastructure. That $87 million allocated to the ICF
could pay greater dividend if those well-paid
consultants, like Fred Duplesis, were pressuring the
feds for the funds needed to truly rebuild, and not
just pay lip service to the concept of a public works
program to rebuild.
The Entergy parent company is getting off scott free
so far, in terms of rebuilding the Entergy
infrastructure, so the company is looking to pass off
the cost to consumers. It has already sneaked in a
rate increase, by charging customers in New Orleans
for the upkeep of the Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Plant.
Bush stated recently, when he visited here a few days
ago, that he doesn't foresee the area getting any more
than the 110 billions dollars already spent, and/or,
allocated. This is bad news for Louisiana citizens, as
a good chunk of that money has landed in the pockets
of big contractors, or simply hasn't yet been spent.
It is unconscionable that energy bills here are so
much higher than the rest of the nation. We are being
squeezed to pay and pay and pay for reconstruction for
this very man-made disaster, and Bush is able to
breeze into town, say a few nice words, and convince
people that he means well.
In other words, its hell for citizens struggling to
rebuild here, and I don't foresee any let-up in the
financial pressures, particularly for the working
class and working poor.
I don't know about you, but I'm still waiting for a
majority of the populace to wake up.
C3 means Concern, Community, and Compassion.
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