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Housing Choices for Poor Families Were Bad Before Katrina, and Still Are

A new study shows that vouchers for low-income families in post-Katrina New Orleans haven’t helped integrate or improve neighborhoods.
relates to Housing Choices for Poor Families Were Bad Before Katrina, and Still Are
REUTERS/Lee Celano

Approximately 70 percent of homes in New Orleans were damaged in the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina, including half of the city’s rental housing stock. Much of that pre-Katrina landscape belonged to low-income residents who had little opportunity to live in neighborhoods that weren’t saturated with poverty. The few neighborhoods characterized by families living above poverty actively worked to keep low-income families away. Ten years after Katrina, not much has changed.  

A new report from Tulane University researchers Stacy Seicshnaydre and Ryan C. Albright reveals that the bulk of low-income families in New Orleans continue to live in neighborhoods mired in poverty and racial segregation, despite the new housing stock that has emerged in the post-Katrina recovery. Before the storm, the main living option for low-wage earners was public housing, in projects that hosted nearly 5,000 units across the city. Almost all of those have been demolished (per pre-Katrina U.S. Housing and Urban Development dictum), and replaced with mixed-income developments.