The Plan to Rebuild New Orleans Part II….Problems

From Scout:

The Plan calls for a moratorium on building permits for 4 months. In that time residents must prove the sustainability of their neighborhoods before rebuilding will be allowed. If unable to prove sustainability they face a buyout program. They would receive 60% of their pre-Katrina equity if federal legislation goes through and a further 40% from block grants. That is if they are forced to sell. If not, they receive only 60% unless they chose to remain in New Orleans. Then they would receive the full 100%.

The first and most obvious problem is the process of proving sustainability…..

First and foremost, the question facing such areas would be whether they would be able to reattract “sufficient population” to warrant investment in city services and facilities, the report says. The report does not specify what the threshold will be to satisfy that requirement, though some commission members have indicated they’d favor a requirement that well over half of residents signal a plan to return


The report is silent on the mechanics of how planners would seek input from displaced residents. Commissioners say they’re likely to hold most meetings in New Orleans, on the assumption that people who truly feel they have a stake in the city’s future would make an effort to be heard. However, they left open the possibility that the charettes would be taken on the road.

In addition to the obvious problems of not knowing what they need to do to prove sustainability residents face problems in just the mechanics of attempting to participate in the process. A good number of people would need to return to NOLA if for no other reason than to determine how things look for them. Where are returning residents even going to stay as they participate in this process? There are relatively few people in NOLA now and there is a problem in sustaining them. There are no public services in many areas and with the moratorium residents cannot build to make their homes livable. Are they to live in the rubble or their cars for 4 months? It appears to be an awful Catch-22. To get services you must return to somehow live in a place with no services. I guess you have to prove your mettle like a 19th century pioneer in a 21st century “Little Horror House on the Urban Prairie.”

But even if you are hardy enough to be the modern day Ingalls family will you have been foolhardy……

In hopes of helping people make their decisions, the panel is urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency to release within a month the advisory floodplain maps the agency is now creating. The maps, used to calculate required home elevations as well as flood-insurance rates, could have a dramatic impact on homeowners’ decisions. If the new maps require homes to be built much higher in certain areas, for instance, the cost to residents could be prohibitive, discouraging resettlement.

OK the problems with waiting on FEMA aside, all could be for nought once these maps do come out.

What if you are not offered the buyout but cannot afford to rebuild as required. You will only receive 60% of equity unless you stay in NOLA yet staying anywhere in NOLA could in and of itself be cost prohibitive.

And finally all this must be done in 4 months. It is a very short time though perhaps merciful if you are one of those residents trying to make it in such a difficult environment.

What is happening in NOLA is an incredibly difficult balancing act between individual rights and that of the community. Clearly there is a need for wetlands that would protect NOLA from future flooding. But individuals will lose their homes and neighborhoods as a result. It is hard to argue against some sacrifice for the greater good. However the African American community will likely feel the greatest impact. How will that be dealt with? The Plan has yet to be approved and elements certainly call out for clarification and revision. I am concerned that the process be fair and I think residents are justified in their fears that a land grab is occurring. As stated above the role of Joseph Canizaro as the head of the land use plan ought to be addressed. But it is only a starting point. Much needs to be addressed and soon. The 4 month clock is ticking.