There's a new estimate out today from RAND Corp. on how much the population of New Orleans will rebound and it's none too pretty.

By September 2008--three years after Katrina struck--the population of New Orleans is likely to reach 272,000, RAND says. Although that would be a big increase from today's 155,000, it would be only 56% of the pre-Katrina population of 485,000.

A key factor in the repopulation of New Orleans will be the rapidity of housing construction, according to RAND's report. It urges steps to speed up issuance of housing permits and to give people a clearer idea of cleanup plans.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

Repopulation could also be accelerated if government officials provide clear and comprehensive information about progress and the ultimate goals for restoring essential city services and systems such as public transportation, levees, public safety, public education and hospitals, the report says.

“If officials give clear and complete information to the residents and businesses of New Orleans, people can start to make solid plans, and this will encourage the reconstruction and rebuilding process,” said Narayan Sastry, a RAND researcher and co-author of the report.

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