According to a report released by the Western Regional Advocacy Project, “massive homelessness” has been created in the U.S. over the last twenty-five years because of cutbacks in federal affordable-housing programs. In the last decade, HUD has spent no money at all directly on construction of new public housing. Instead, the government has focused on the Hope VI grant program, which transforms distressed public housing into mixed-income communities.
Also during the last decade, HUD has demolished, sold or re-developed 100,000 housing units. As a result, the report says, there are fewer subsidized dwellings available. Over 4 million families live in HUD-subsidized housing, and between 2 and 3.5 million are homeless in any given year.
This study is of particular interest in New Orleans, whose public housing has been steadily decreasing for years, and because of the damage done by Hurricane Katrina. There has also been a recent controversy in Jefferson Parish, which is just outside New Orleans, involving Parish Councilman Chris Roberts, who maintains that “With the number of jobs out there, nobody should be on public housing unless you’re ignorant or lazy.”
Roberts and the Jefferson Parish Council have made it clear that they do not want displaced public housing residents from New Orleans moving to Jefferson Parish. The rationale is that low-income housing causes crime. As da po’ blog points out, people who relied on public housing in the city before Katrina cannot afford to come back, a lot of working poor rely on public housing, and low-income housing does not cause crime. “You can’t eliminate crime by eliminating low-income housing. Try fair education and workers’ rights to achieve that end.” da po’ blog also points out that most of the people not wanted by Jefferson Parish just happen to be African American.