New Orleans, LA

New Orleans reconstruction plan sparks discrimination concerns

January 13, 2006
In his latest visit to the hurricane-damaged city of New Orleans, the US President George W. Bush has walked into another racial controversy, with claims that reconstruction plans unveiled this week discriminate against the city's poor, black citizens.
     In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August, emergency services were accused of assisting whites and those in wealthy neighbourhoods ahead of New Orleans's more impoverished residents.
     Now as the multi-billion dollar rebuilding effort goes on, there are accusations that whites are again getting preferential treatment.
     It's putting pressure on the city's black Mayor, Ray Nagin, while President Bush has moved to reassure residents that federal political leaders haven't forgotten them.

Housing discrimination hits the Web

January 04, 2006
With names such as Katrinahousing.org, they offer hurricane victims help finding places to live. But the listings aren't for everyone. Many of the Good Samaritans who post available accommodations want to provide housing only for certain folks.
     "Not racist, but white only," says a Jasper, Ala., posting that offers two rooms in a mobile home.
     "As a white couple, we would be looking for a white mother and baby," advises a posting from Casselbery, Fla.
     "Will help white males ages 20-45," says a Baton Rouge offer.
     "We would prefer a white Christian couple. Pastors are welcome," says someone from Douglasville, Ga.
     "Applicants must be gay, white or light-skinned Hispanic males," reads an offer from Sharon, Pa., which identifies the host as part of the gay community. An Ellicott City, Md., listing says in bold print, "Gays and lesbians not welcome."
     A Minnesota woman who says she is white and 47 prefers to help "a single black male."
     The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center found 68 such postings on five Web sites that offer housing to people displaced by Katrina. All of them violate federal law because, even though most of the offers are for free housing, they are posted on Web sites that generate revenue through advertising, said the nonprofit civil rights organization, which filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Fair housing center files discrimination complaint against housing authority

November 21, 2005
The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) filed a housing discrimination complaint against the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) last week.
     The complaint, filed with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, accuses HANO of violating a 2003 enforcement agreement entered into between former St. Thomas Housing Development residents, the City of New Orleans, HANO, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the HOPE VI redevelopment of St. Thomas, now known as River Garden.

Class, color may guide repopulation of New Orleans

October 19, 2005
It was a Thursday, the first of September, just four days after Hurricane Katrina, and floodwater stood seven feet deep in the living room of Robert Bouchon's big brick house on Memphis Street in Lakeview, this city's largest middle-class, white neighborhood.
     The Bouchon family, though, had already assembled an interim middle-class life on the outskirts of Houston, where Robert and his wife, Cathy, together with their three young children, had fled in their minivan.
     When Katrina blew in and levees gave way, the high water, in many neighborhoods, was colorblind and classless. It clobbered Lakeview, a leafy and serene white area where longtime residents cannot remember serious flooding, as cruelly as the Lower Ninth Ward, a black neighborhood with a long, dismal history of high water.
     But in New Orleans, where affluent whites live high and working-class blacks live low, the privileges of neighborhood quickly asserted themselves. For many, race and class predicted patterns of escape, dictating whether flight would be a nervous drive out of town or a caged week of torment and humiliation.
     These days, as planners and politicians look ahead, many realize that the future of this city, which before the storm was more than two-thirds black and nearly one-third poor, swings on two simple questions:
     Are residents coming home? If so, which ones?

Landlord settles discrimination lawsuit

April 14, 2005
A Metairie landlord accused of refusing to rent his apartments to prospective black tenants has settled a lawsuit by paying $9,000 and agreeing not to discriminate in the future, officials with the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center said.
     B.W. Brister, who is white, allegedly told Claire and Vaughn Spiller in 2000 that he rented apartments only to single white women. Claire Spiller is white, and her husband is black.
     Claire Spiller complained to the nonprofit housing center, which later that year sent people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds to inquire about renting apartments at properties that Brister owns. Other so-called testers revisited the properties in 2002. The organization said it discovered a pattern of discrimination and filed suit in federal court in 2002.

The fire this time

April 04, 2005
Is anyone out there surprised by last week's findings by city "testers" who concluded that French Quarter establishments routinely treat black patrons differently than white customers? Testers found that black patrons were often charged more than whites for the same drink, were held to a higher dress code standard than whites, and were repeatedly reminded about minimum-drink requirements while whites were not.
     The investigation was coordinated by the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, a group that has distinguished itself by its vigilance against housing discrimination and predatory lending in the Crescent City. The group sent 10 black testers and 10 white testers to various bars and nightclubs in the Vieux Carre and had them take note of how they were treated by bouncers, bartenders and other personnel.
     The investigation was launched after the Dec. 31 murder of Georgia Southern University student Levon Jones, a black college student who was choked to death by three white bouncers at Razzoo on Bourbon Street.

City seeks tighter reins on bouncers

March 09, 2005
Mayor Ray Nagin's administration will soon propose mandatory training for nightclub bouncers and has decided to use so-called "mystery shoppers" -- fake tourists -- to sample nightclub security techniques, the head of the city's Human Relations Commission said Friday.
     The disclosure came on the same day the national leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference visited Nagin and Police Superintendent Eddie Compass to talk about the death of a black college student at the hands of white bouncers at Razzoo Club and Patio, a French Quarter nightspot.
     Having once threatened "to raise hell in New Orleans" if city leaders did not recognize the black community's concerns over the incident, SCLC President Charles Steele lavished praise on Nagin and Compass after a series of meetings with them Friday.

Council spurns Clarkson again

November 19, 2004
After a two-hour debate that included allegations of racism and warnings that millions of dollars in federal housing money could be at risk, the New Orleans City Council refused Thursday to impose a one-year moratorium on multiple-family housing throughout Councilwoman Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson's district.
     The measure would have prohibited the city from issuing permits for any new or expanded residential buildings in her district except single-family homes, unless the council voted to waive the restriction in specific cases. Clarkson's district includes Algiers, the French Quarter, Treme and several other east bank neighborhoods.
     Clarkson said the measure was an attempt to stop the spread of blight and ensure that new low-income housing is built only in appropriate places and under strict controls. Opponents suggested it was a slap in the face to poor people, discriminatory against black people and a serious mistake in a city that needs far more affordable housing, most of which is built for two or more families.

Minorities have housing options

September 27, 2004
Surrounded by city and federal fair housing administrators, between nibbles of brulee au chocolat at Rene Bistrot, Caroline Peebles, assistant secretary of Fair Housing, talked recently with The Louisiana Weekly about how low-income people and minorities in Louisiana could attain homeownership. Peebles' visit to New Orleans on Sept. 10 was spun off of a speaking engagement in Shreveport.
     Two of the biggest stumbling blocks to home ownership are lack of knowledge of one's rights and how to negotiate the process of requesting federal aid, she said and pointed out the disparity in numbers of African-American homeowners compared with other ethnic groups.
     Peebles cited three major barriers to low-income purchasers: lack of funds for down payment and closing costs; knowledge about how to go about buying a home; and finding affordable housing. For many, poor credit is also a problem.

Bias suit targets La. apartment complex

April 15, 2004
The U.S. Justice Department Thursday announced a lawsuit against a Louisiana apartment complex for alleged bias against prospective black tenants.
     The suit targets the owners and managers of the Foster Apartments in St. Bernard Parish, La.
     The federal complaint alleges the defendants discouraged black people from renting apartments while encouraging white applicants to do so. Specifically, the complaint alleges the defendants told prospective black applicants that they had no apartments for rent while at the same time telling white applicants that apartments were available.

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