Facing South reported earlier this week on the housing crisis still unfolding along the Gulf Coast four years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita -- a crisis that continues to slow post-hurricane recovery in the region.
While community groups and local leaders have made enormous strides in rebuilding and reclaiming many neighborhoods throughout the Gulf Coast, federal and state aid programs -- most notably the Road Home program -- have failed to live up to their promise.
In particular, the Road Home grant formula has had a more negative effect on those whose damage estimates were higher than their home value. Those whose damages were greater than their pre-storm home value -- 47.3% of all applicants rebuilding in place -- fell on average $69,000 short of the money they need to rebuild. This was a particular problem in low-income, predominantly black neighborhoods in New Orleans. More than 60 percent of households in New Orleans East and the Lower 9th Ward have gaps over $40,000, compared to 49 percent citywide and 33 percent statewide. The average rebuilding cost gap for those communities were $65,000 and $68,000, respectively -- a mammoth sum for low-income residents struggling to come home.
The program, set up under the administration of former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, has undergone a series of modifications aimed at improving communication, service to residents and the process of appealing grant awards that were disputed by applicants. A new contractor is now managing it, but some residents and advocacy groups say problems persist.