New Orleans to Raze Public Housing

The City Council of New Orleans votes unanimously to demolish four major housing projects. The move will change the face of the city. The vote came after a contentious six-hour hearing and violent protests outside the chambers where several demonstrators were arrested.

Gwen Filosa of The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans speaks with Renee Montagne.

Faith, Hope and the New Orleans Housing Fight

New Orleans Project

Betty Lee Ward carries an upside-down American flag past a damaged and shuttered housing project in New Orleans. Mario Tama/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Mario Tama/Getty Images

After the New Orleans City Council voted to demolish 218 public housing buildings, dozens of protesters tried to force their way into the meeting. Police responded with pepper spray and tasers.

For many in New Orleans, sorting through the controversial plan for redevelopment is a challenge.

Bart Everson, who has been writing about the city's recovery from Hurricane Katrina on his site Life in the Flood Zone, says the projects weren't a great place to live before Katrina. Everson says part of the problem lay with the same federal and city agencies now ready to tear the projects down and build new mixed-income homes in their place.

"Some units were pretty nice, actually, and some were pretty dilapidated, and you might look at them say, 'That's not even inhabitable,' — but that doesn't mean they weren't inhabited," Everson says. He says a lot of the housing projects came through with minimal damage.

Everson says the project nearest his Mid-City home was barricaded shortly after Katrina. "You can go there even now and see that there's big steel plates over all the doors and windows, preventing the residents from coming back," he says.

Years of watching New Orleans decay before the storm, followed by years of watching the recovery drag on, have sapped New Orleanians' trust in government, he says. "Distrust and suspicion is really at the heart of it," he says. "With respect to the residents and activists, they just have no faith."

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