Sunday, April 09, 2017

Never made right

One aspect of Katrina that doesn't get talked about quite enough is the way middle and working class people were actually penalized for holding wealth without debt
Since many of the homes in the community were handed down through the generations, it was often hard to establish clear title -- important to obtaining rebuilding money in the mostly low-to-moderate-income neighborhood. Those who could prove ownership were likely to receive insufficient money to rebuild under a government program; greater sums were given to the owners of homes with higher market values.
It just didn't compute that people with moderate incomes living off the grid of servitude to some bank could possibly be restored to such a state. This is still a problem
But selling the Make It Right house has been a challenge because of a sort of catch-22. Chambers said the house is for sale for $164,000, but because of a 15-year pact with Make It Right, the house must be sold to someone with a relatively low income.

The buyer's income must not exceed 120 percent of the average median income in New Orleans, she said. For an individual, that's around $50,400, she said. The trouble is, most people who earn that amount can't qualify for a loan. So, she said, the house sits.
The Make It Right house in that article is listed in foreclosure, by the way. It's only one house but I think the circumstances there indicate just how far out of sight the notion that people living on moderate incomes are entitled to a bit of "The American Dream" really is anymore.

Instead, we're meant to be beholden in one manner or another to a bank, a landlord, or.. I guess one of these people. 
The developers were able to purchase the land at a discount in return for building housing for low-to-moderate-income residents. Most are still in various stages of organizing financing or preparing to build.
The AP story doesn't detail this very well but there's more in the local press. NORA "sold these properties to five developers (Habitat, Perez, The St. Bernard Project, Neville, and Jourdan Valley.)  Each has a distinct plan for its parcel.  Some of that is explained here. You can see, for example, that Habitat and St. Bernard are doing very different things.
Jamie Neville of Neville Development declined an interview request. Perez and Harmony did not respond.

Habitat has identified 50 lots where it wants to build a mix of doubles and single-family homes. The NORA program will allow the nonprofit to expand what executive director Jim Pate refers to as incubator housing.

These units will be dedicated to renters who have $2,000 or more in debt. After they erase that debt, they will have a chance to become property owners. In the few spots where Habitat has designated incubator housing, the experiment has been successful, Pate said.

Most of the new homes planned for the Lower 9th Ward will be occupied by owners who put in Habitat's standard "sweat equity" to subsidize their purchase.

The St. Bernard Project plans to build 36 doubles, and all 72 units will be rentals, CEO and co-founder Zack Rosenburg said, explaining he intends to seek Low Income Housing Tax Credits to finance the development.

His objective is boost the limited inventory for affordable new rental property and at the same time bring enough residents to the Lower 9th Ward to attract supporting development, he said.
Meanwhile, the Jourdan Valley development looks like some sort of hippie commune for the sharing economy age. 
Allen said anyone living in the neighborhood who doesn’t want to be part of the communal aspect of Jourdan Valley doesn’t have to be. For those who do, landscaping and design will be used to add a sense of connectedness between their homes, which provide the privacy people need, and the common areas that provide the community many naturally crave.

The houses will be sold at market rate, with the 26 new units offering between 700 and 1,200 square feet.

Allen said cohousing can be an affordable option because homes don’t need to have extra bedrooms, laundry facilities or office space because of what is provided in the community building.

While the communal aspect of a cohousing development may be radically different from a traditional neighborhood, legally speaking, it functions much like a condominium or homeowners association, and there really aren’t any significant zoning hurdles to the project, Allen said.

Jourdan Valley won’t have any kind of selection process for the people who want to live there, she said.

She said the point is that it’s a cross-section of the community — people of all ages, races and creeds, in various stages of their lives, with children and without.

All that matters is that they buy into its philosophy.
Oh dear.  I read a lot of complaints about NORA sitting on properties as part of some nefarious scheme to prop up the housing market. But if they're willing to unload land on this crap, they'll sell to anybody.  Imagine how many bouncy castle communities Frank Scurlock could have built on Jazzland by now if NORA had purview over that.

All that aside, the big picture in the Lower 9  is this.  A lower middle class neighborhood of struggling but mostly stable homeowners was eradicated by a man made disaster.  The displaced homeowners were never made right. Their land now belongs to developers willing to provide some "affordable housing" provided the residents conform to various stipulations of "sweat equity," or "communal philosophy" or... "please sign here so that we can get our tax credits thank you very much."

And maybe it's better than fallow lots and an underhoused population.. if you believe that really is the only other alternative. But the important thing is, as always, that there's money to be made.  As James Gray said in February,
New Orleans City Councilman James Gray said the projects are a “great deal” for the area and would be a key element of its continuing redevelopment, alongside commercial projects such as CVS and Family Dollar stores and the reopening of government facilities such as the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission’s Sanchez Center.

I’ve been saying to people, you need to go ahead and invest your money in the Lower 9 if you want to make some money,” Gray said.

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