Saturday, May 27, 2017

Replace neighborhoods with golf courses

It's remarkable the degree to which things that are evil on their very face get glossed over.  As this article points out, the scheme to knock down the St. Bernard Project and build a "golf community" in its place wasn't the only evil housing policy choice made in post-Katrina New Orleans. But it was among the most cartoonishly evil schemes.
Even before the late 2007 city approval of the demolitions (mistakenly referred to by the Times as happening in 2006), as demonstrators camped out around the St. Bernard, the Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded a contract and $120 million in tax breaks to Atlanta-based developer Columbia Residential to tear down the St. Bernard and build a mixed-income complex called Columbia Parc in its place. The new golf course was part of Columbia's pitch, and the package came heavily backed by local developers and the Bush family, among others.

Construction of Columbia Parc ultimately cost $440 million. While it was being built, Alphonso Jackson, the housing secretary under George W. Bush, resigned under federal investigation into that and other contracts. The projects were bulldozed with former residents’ belongings still locked inside.

Columbia Parc opened in 2010, its 685 units home to just 125 of the 920 households who formerly resided in the St. Bernard projects. In all, 493 units at the new complex are now rented at below-market rates, including some to tenants with Section 8 vouchers. However, to qualify for an apartment, prospective tenants must have a job and pass a credit check and a background check. In the incarceration capital of the world, and in a city with a black male unemployment rate of 44 percent, a city where inflation has outpaced income gains since 2000, these requirements keep out all but a tiny sliver of the very poor.

“The amount of people who are back is about one-ninth of what it was before,” said Evan Casper-Futterman, a Ph.D candidate in urban planning and policy at Rutgers University and co-producer of Land of Opportunity, a documentary that focuses in part on New Orleans redevelopment schemes. “Okay, does anybody give two fucks about the other 800 [families]? No, because they're poor and undeserving, and some of them are probably not even in New Orleans.”
It's important to emphasize, this wasn't a failed policy. It succeeded at removing the people it was designed to remove. The plan was to replace poor people with golf.  How much more blatant could that be? Some of us are actually old enough to have said so at the time. Not that anyone listened then or listens ever. And now, as the narrative is being spun in a way that re-casts the intent in a nobler light, no one will listen the next time either.

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