Real Estate & Property Law

New Housing Rules Hit Katrina Victims

Nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005, displaced residents from the lowest economic rungs of the region’s economic ladder are still struggling–often in communities far from home. But as many businesses desperately seek workers, and former residents fruitlessly seek jobs elsewhere, they can’t go home again because of a lack of affordable housing.

That lack is, at least to some extent, intentional, housing advocates contend. Federal and state reconstruction efforts have focused primarily on homeowners, not low-income renters, even as a shortage of rental units has resulted in astronomical rent increases. Meanwhile, at least five Louisiana and Mississippi jurisdictions have begun revoking permits for the temporary trailers still housing some 7,400 low-income residents who have managed to stay in the area despite Katrina, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is pursuing a lawsuit seeking to stop the evictions, the New York Times reports today in the latest article in a series detailing the post-Katrina situation.

Although some officials have complained about crime problems in the trailer parks, that isn’t the only motivation behind the trailer restrictions, says Joseph D. Rich, a fair housing project director for the nonprofit group. “There are severe racial overtones to these actions,” he says, “because there’s all this concern that black and low-income people will be coming into your neighborhood.”

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