After Katrina: Why Isn’t HUD Building Housing?

Katrina + 10 months

(Video from truthout.com)

An editorial in today’s NYT finally does what, so far as I know, no newspaper has done since Katrina hit New Orleans: connect a few dots in the aftermath.

The Bush administration’s mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina housing crisis has often looked like an attempt to discourage survivors from applying for help. The House has taken an important step toward reversing this policy with a bill that would require the Department of Housing and Urban Development to issue tens of thousands of new housing vouchers under the Section 8 program, which allows low-income families to seek homes in the private real estate market.

Many of these families would have long since found permanent homes and settled into new lives had the Bush administration brought HUD — which was created to deal with these kinds of situations — into the picture at the very start. But Hurricane Katrina arrived just as the administration had made up its mind to cripple HUD and the successful Section 8 program, partly as a way of offsetting tax cuts for the wealthy.

The administration instead rigged up a confusing and inflexible housing program and put the Federal Emergency Management Agency in charge. FEMA frustrated landlords and Katrina’s victims alike. Last year, one federal judge likened the convoluted application process — which too often led vulnerable families to lose aid without knowing why or having reasonable recourse to appeal — to something out of a horror story by Kafka.

With thousands of families scheduled to lose their temporary aid by September, the Senate should move quickly to pass this much-needed legislation. Hurricane Katrina’s victims should not have to keep paying the price for the administration’s misplaced animosity toward low-income housing.

It doesn’t go far enough, of course. It has become painfully clear in the year-and-a-half since Katrina that the Bush Administration sees the new New Orleans largely as a predominantly white corporate theme park. It has scattered hundreds of thousands of homeless black Orleanians to the four winds and targeted Federal money to reconstruction efforts downtown and to upscale white neighborhoods. The touchy racist aspect of the BA’s response is apparently not something the NYT is yet prepared to deal with.

Still, finally noticing the way the Bush War on the Poor is playing out in the aftermath of Katrina is better than nothing, which is mostly what we’ve been getting from the MSM, and the questions they raise are important ones: Why wasn’t the housing problem given to HUD? Why were the hundreds of thousands left homeless by the storm dumped in trailer parks all over the South and Southwest and then forgotten? Why has FEMA – an emergency management agency – been left in charge of Katrina’s refugees long after the emergency has passed?

The answer they offer may only explain part of the reason but it’s a critical point: the Bush War on the Poor has consequences in real life. It isn’t just a matter of numbers and a lousy attitude, and it has little to do with incompetence. The abandonment was deliberate.

This is another Bush Admin scandal but it isn’t even on the Bush Scandal Radar yet despite the undeniable fact that it has been going on steadily since the storm even though FEMA’s incompetence was widely criticized. The answer to that question is simple: racism.

Katrina’s refugees are overwhelmingly black. Ray Nagin was right (though he could have chosen a better way of saying it): the Bushies are hellbent on doing everything they can to make sure New Orleans is never again a black, Democratic city. They want a white, Republican, corporate-owned and controlled city in which the Mardi Gras plays the same role DisneyWorld plays in Orlando. To get that, they are prepared to abandon the black refugees wholesale – and have successfully done so. The media, which is extremely uncomfortable with the racist nature of the abandonment, has no bones for diving into that particular Republican swamp. But they are – at least the NYT is – comfortable with noting the class war aspect.

Fine. We’ll take what we can get. But the lack of meaningful, consistent after-Katrina coverage is a disgrace for which there is no excuse.

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2 Responses

  1. […] White Collar Unions After Katrina: Why Isn’t HUD Building Housing? […]

  2. […] to Texas to Arkansas, reconstruction of the poorer neighborhoods is all but at a standstill while HUD refuses to either spend appropriated money or release it to be spent by Gulf state govts and Bush refuses to sign the waiver that would let those state govts do it […]

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