New Orleans, LA

Housing battle not over in St. Bernard

May 07, 2011
U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan says that while St. Bernard Parish settled two issues that limited African-Americans' freedom to choose where they will live, the parish is still trying to block multi-unit housing and residents' freedom to rent to anyone they want.
     Speaking to graduates at predominantly black Southern University-New Orleans, Donovan on Saturday took the opportunity to address his department's battle with St. Bernard over its efforts to limit available apartments in the New Orleans suburb.
     Donovan said that although the parish has knocked down two discriminatory ordinances under pressure from HUD, the pattern of discrimination in St. Bernard is still egregious.
     "Although they have agreed to allow multi-family housing to be built," Donovan said, "they continue to find ways to stand in the way of that construction."
     

Extreme pretexts used to further racist housing

April 19, 2011
In violation of a federal court order, St. Bernard Parish is still excluding black renters to "maintain demographics" in the white-dominated area, a fair housing group and an affordable housing developer say.
     The builder claims the discrimination has gone so far that the parish has fined construction workers "for having 'too much' dirt on their tires.'"
     The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center and Provident Realty Advisors sued St. Bernard Parish, its president and council in Federal Court.
     Louisiana's parishes are the equivalent of most states' counties. The plaintiffs say St. Bernard Parish, a mostly white area of outlying New Orleans is using zoning laws to keep black people out.
     

Interracial couple denied marriage license in La.

October 16, 2009
A white Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have.
     Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.
     "I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. "I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."
     Bardwell said he asks everyone who calls about marriage if they are a mixed race couple. If they are, he does not marry them, he said.
     

Fair housing group says St. Bernard Parish broke housing laws again

October 14, 2009
An ongoing legal battle between a fair housing group and St. Bernard Parish has escalated again this week, with fair housing advocates asking that parish officials be held in contempt of court for the fourth time this year after calling for a local election that could permanently ban large apartment complexes in the parish.
     St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro says the parish's lawyers are researching the legality of the referendum on apartment complexes of more than six units.The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center has sued St. Bernard Parish over its rental policies numerous times since 2006. The basic contention: by limiting the availability of rentals in the parish, officials are discriminating against minorities.
     The most recent round of litigation has centered on the parish's attempts to block construction of four 72-unit mixed-income apartment complexes in Chalmette. After U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan ruled that the parish was in contempt of court three separate times this year, the parish eventually issued the building permits earlier this month.
     

HANO Section 8 voucher process revised after complaints

September 02, 2009
Sherry Baker got a Section 8 application last week and mailed it to the Housing Authority of New Orleans on Monday. After discovering her application wouldn't be accepted because it was sent too early, she was planning to mail another one.
     But now Baker won't need to trudge to the mailbox a second time, because on Wednesday, HANO -- bowing to criticism -- revised the guidelines for its Section 8 lottery, which was slated to begin accepting applications through e-mail and U.S. mail on Sunday.
     On Wednesday morning the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center released a statement saying its staff had "grave concerns" about HANO's "confusing and misleading" process and its short, six-day process that had included no radio or TV advertising. That afternoon HANO agreed to accept early submissions and extend its applications deadline by six days, to Sept. 18.

Homeless and struggling In New Orleans

August 25, 2009
Crawling through a hole in a fence and walking through an open doorway, Shamus Rohn and Mike Miller lead the way into an abandoned Midcity hospital. They are outreach workers for the New Orleans organization UNITY for the Homeless, and they do this all day long; searching empty houses and buildings for homeless people, so they can offer services and support. "We joke about having turned criminal trespass into a fulltime job," says Rohn.
      Up a darkened stairway and through the detritus of a building that looks like its been scavenged for anything of value to sell, Rohn and Miller enter a sundrenched room. Inside is Michael Palmer, a 57-year-old white former construction worker and merchant seaman who has made a home here. Palmer - his friends call him Mickey - is in some ways lucky. He found a room with a door that locks. He salvaged some furniture from other parts of the hospital, so he has a bed, a couch, and a rug. Best of all, he has a fourth-floor room with a balcony. "Of all the homeless," he says, "I probably have the best view."
     The abandoned building dwellers they've found are generally older than the overall homeless population, with high rates of disability and illness. The average age of folks they have found is 45, and the oldest was 90. Over 70% report or show signs of psychiatric disorders, and 42% show signs of disabling medical illnesses and problems. Disabling means "people that are facing death if not treated properly," clarifies Rohn. "We're not talking about something like high blood pressure."

N.O. City Council rejects housing plan

August 20, 2009
Siding with Lake Carmel subdivision residents who fear the project would threaten their property values and quality of life, the New Orleans City Council voted Thursday to reject a developer's plan to build 36 single-family homes for low- to moderate-income residents on a narrow strip of land along Morrison Road in eastern New Orleans.
     The action almost certainly sends developer Harold Foley's project back to the courts, where it already has been more than once before.
     Foley, a former New Orleanian now living in Georgia, said he may file suits in both state and federal courts, alleging violations of city land-use regulations and of federal fair housing laws.

New Orleans landlords unfairly deny housing to Section 8 voucher holders, group's report to show today

August 20, 2009
Landlords are unfairly denying housing to people trying to use Section 8 vouchers in New Orleans, a local nonprofit group will announce today.
     The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center will announce the results of an audit report on discrimination against Section 8 holders during a 10:30 a.m. conference call.
     The report, titled "Housing Choice in Crisis," claims landlords are denying Section 8 tenants at an "alarming rate." The group claims that more and more people rely on the housing vouchers for assistance each day, and "the extent to which voucher holders are able to use the vouchers to attain safe, quality housing in high opportunity neighborhoods is an important consideration.

St. Bernard Parish fair-housing case back in court

August 03, 2009
St. Bernard Parish was back in court Monday in the latest chapter of a federal fair housing court case that has been simmering on and off in the suburban parish since 2006.
     U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan in March ordered the parish to lift a ban on construction of new apartment buildings, ruling that the moratorium was "racially discriminatory." A month after her ruling, the parish's Planning Commission refused to resubdivide the sites for Provident's apartment complexes, effectively blocking the developments.
     In June, the developers again sought Planning Commission approval, but were told they would have to produce a detailed traffic study. Matt Harris of Provident testified Monday morning that the decisions of the parish have jeopardized financing for the project, part of which comes from federal tax credits.

Federal judge rules St. Bernard Parish must cover legal fees in housing discrimination lawsuit

July 23, 2009
A federal judge has ruled that St. Bernard Parish must cover legal fees and costs in connection with a recent housing discrimination lawsuit brought against the parish.
     U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan in March ordered the parish to lift its ban on multi-family housing developments. Her order came after a hearing in which the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center and Provident Realty Advisors, who sued the parish, and claimed the ban unfairly discriminated against minorities.
     Berrigan also said that the parish, in adopting the ban on multi-family housing developments, was in contempt of an earlier consent order that settled a previous housing discrimination suit brought by the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center.

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