Brain surgeon-turned-Drumpf administration head of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Dr. Ben Carson, toured two of New Orleans’ revamped housing project developments last Tuesday, along with Governor John Bel Edwards and representatives from both HANO and HUD.
The two developments, Bienville Basin (former Iberville projects) and Columbia Parc (formerly the St. Bernard, which flooded after Hurricane Katrina). Since Hurricane Katrina, both have been refurbished inside and out. Both now house mixed-income communities funded through public-private partnerships.
Gone are most of the old brick structures, replaced with cheery red brick and colorful siding. The insides are no longer painted institutional yellow, but rather white walls like any other apart rather white walls like any other apartment. Faux marble countertops and faux wood floors give each unit a homier feel.
The baseline market price for a one bedroom in Bienville Basin was said to be $1,200. “That’s the market rate. If you came in and didn’t have any assistance with the rent, you’d pay $1,200,” Governor Edwards told The Louisiana Weekly. “I don’t want to speak for the folks who run the development but I think, if you were low-income with assistance, it can be as little as $150 or $200 a month.”
Of the Bienville Basin’s total 496 units (down from over 800 units before Katrina), 155 are now reserved for public housing, 173 remain at market value and 168 are reserved as affordable units for those utilizing tax credits and/or vouchers to reduce their rent.
“I’ve been through this development previously and I am happy with the progress,” Gov. Edwards added, praising the mixed-income model. “To move from where you have concentrated residents who are all low-income into a mixed-income deve-lopment is going to be a big success. This is just so much better, I think. So much more stability.”
This tour came after a stop the day before in Baton Rouge where Dr. Carson and Gov. Edwards stopped to look at new housing there and also to speak with politicians and residents about the slow-coming $1.7 billion in special appropriations from Congress to fix last year’s flood damage.
The large group including Dr. Carson and Gov. Edwards, plus representatives from HUD and HANO then proceeded to a second, larger Bienville Basin unit meant for families. There, Carson explained to those gathered that HUD was pleased to currently be helping one-in-four people in need of residence. The waiting list for Section 8 vouchers currently contains over 30,000 people.
At this point in the tour, Dr. Carson asked, “What are the schools like around here?”
“We have several schools near here,” replied Gov. Edwards, “all charter schools.”
“Oh, really?” said Dr. Carson. “Were the charters already there or did they come in [after Katrina]?”
“After Katrina almost all of New Orleans’ schools became charters,” replied Gov. Edwards, referencing what has been one of the biggest issues in Katrina’s wake.
“Oh. Well, that was very proactive of them,” Carson said, smiling.
“It’s been a huge improvement,” Edwards claimed, before also claiming that the schools were all about to move back under the control of the New Orleans Parish School Board. CLICK HERE to read the rest of the story at Louisiana Weekly…