Katrina +5: Jobs Lag and the Road Home Remains Uncertain

Locals hope new mayors recovery efforts will be more successful

“We also borrowed money from the state and because we were the first parish to come back on line, we had a very robust sales tax base, which helped us to literally self-fund a lot of our recovery needs,” said Lee.

Getting people back into their homes and providing affordable housing options for renters continues to face many obstacles. In July, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to rescind $318 million from the Road Home program. The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund is suing the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department and LRA executive director Robin Keegan because it believes that the program discriminates against African Americans.

According to ReNika Moore, the organization’s assistant counsel, Road Home grants are based on the lesser of either a home’s per-storm value or the estimated cost to rebuild. Because black homeowners are more likely to live in neighborhoods with lower home values, they’re more likely to receive grants based on the pre-storm value, which will be assessed lower than nearly identical homes in white neighborhoods, instead of reconstruction grants. For example, she said, a black homeowner whose house sustained more than $308,000 of damage, was offered the pre-storm value rather than the maximum $150,000 grant that he was eligible to receive to rebuild.

In June 2010, plaintiffs filed a motion to freeze surplus Road Home funds until the lawsuit is concluded, which was denied on procedural grounds. However, Moore said, the court acknowledged racial discrimination in the program’s formula.

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