Vitter pans funding for rebuilding N.O. projects

Vitter pans funding for rebuilding N.O. projects

New Orleans CityBusiness
Posted: Monday, October 8, 2007

Senate Bill 1668 would ensure the federal government provides additional funding for Louisiana’s Road Home program, which is estimated to have a $3.5-billion shortfall.

But Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie, is raising concerns about provisions in the bill dealing with New Orleans public housing.

Vitter said the bill proposes to “re-create the New Orleans housing projects exactly as they were, but they were poorly designed, offered barely any quality services to residents and, most importantly, isolated the residents from the rest of the city.”

Vitter also said requiring one-to-one replacement is unnecessary for public housing units unoccupied at the time of Katrina. He said it would be “wasting valuable resources that could be better used to efficiently address housing needs.”

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans, a sponsor of the bill along with Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said Vitter “is just misinformed.”

“His criticism is not accurate,” Landrieu said.

The Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act of 2007 does more than call for affordable housing. It is also important to The Road Home, said Andy Kopplin, Louisiana Recovery Authority executive director. The Road Home faces a $3.5-billion shortfall, Kopplin estimates.

The bill calls for Congress to fully fund The Road Home if Louisiana puts up $1 billion, which it is has done, Kopplin said.

In March, the House passed a version of GCHRA in a 302-125 vote.

On Oct. 1, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee heard testimony on SB 1668.

Landrieu said the bill does not call for New Orleans public housing to return to pre-Katrina conditions.

“The purpose of this bill is to say, ‘Yes, there will be public housing reopened in New Orleans and in the region but it will be done under a plan of mixed development with a guarantee that it will in fact be affordable and it’s a middle-of-the-road approach,'” Landrieu said. “No one that I know has any intention of building back crime-ridden, rat-infested inadequate units.”

Landrieu is pushing for a vote on the bill in the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

Additionally, James Perry, executive director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, testified Tuesday in support of the act.

Perry went before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee on behalf of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Senate Bill 1668 grants a right of return to former New Orleans public housing residents and sets a deadline for the Housing Authority of New Orleans to make housing available, Perry said.

The bill “would make major improvements to some of the remaining and pressing housing needs on the Gulf Coast,” he said.

The bill calls for affordable housing units to replace every unit of demolished public housing, Perry said.

The bill would also allow income-eligible people living in trailers to receive federal rental assistance until the program ends in 2008, “providing a much-needed alternative to living in travel trailers or motels,” Perry said.

– Compiled by Deon RobertsSource: http://www.neworleanscitybusiness.com/viewStory.cfm?recID=20465

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