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Here it is eight days later, and my head is still stuck in Easter Sunday.

I keep thinking back to a conversation I had with Debra.

Debra lives across the street. She’s a single mother raising children in difficult circumstances. Her oldest son was murdered in Central City last October. She doesn’t make much money working her job at an Uptown grocery. Often she has to borrow from us. She always pays back, but I worry about her.

As we stood on the street and talked, she said she’d like to go back to school and get a degree. She said she’d like to own her own home some day — the American dream.

She shared some of the particulars of her financial situation. The Housing Authority of New Orleans is paying Debra’s rent under Section 8. The check, which goes directly to the landlord, is for the amount of $1,300 every month.

That’s more than our monthly mortgage payment. Our house is almost as large as the entire fourplex in which Debra’s apartment is located. Right, that’s $1,300 for a somewhat crappy, small, unfurnished apartment in a fourplex. Appliances not included — fridge and stove must be provided by the tenant.

In fact, the apartment is bad enough that Debra is planning to move soon. That makes me sad, because I like Debra, and our neighborhood is so unstable now. Every time we get to know our neighbors, they move. But I digress.

There is such a thing as a Section 8 Homeownership program, but as far as I can tell, we don’t have that in New Orleans.

Or do we? According to an Excel spreadsheet on the HUD website, there have been at least 65 closings in New Orleans through the Housing Choice Voucher Homeownership Program. I’m making some phone calls to see if I can chase down any further information.

The ultimate irony is that as I had this conversation with Debra, we were looking at all the vacant, flooded homes surrounding us.

Some days it feels like we are living inside a giant puzzle that no one knows how to fix.

Published inNeighborsNew OrleansPolitix


  1. What a horrible, cruel joke. Seems to me that squatting should be relegalized there. What hurt could it be, to have someone occupying space that otherwise is turning to weeds?

  2. Legalizing squatting is an extreme response. It would be much better to simply change the way in which properties are handled by the city. The “Lot Next Door”: program is stalling. It’s a popular program where neighbors can by neglected properties on their block.

    Bartender J, before legalizing squatting, I’d rather see that we don’t create a strange system where the city holds onto properties that are deteriorating and doesn’t act on them because they consider them capitol, as was proposed in the “Blight Bonds” idea. We need our real estate market to stay lively.

    As far as the $1,300 for Section 8, it would be better to find some way to encourage home ownership, rather than subsidize neglect.

  3. jenn jenn

    how about habitat for humanity?

    also that squatting idea sounds like the result of some dorm room bull session there are buildings burning down due to squatters

  4. I’m not impressed with Habitat for Humanity. They are a new construction solution in a city full of valuable historic construction. If you’ve ever been by the Clown Village they erected, you’d see that it’s a bunch of modular housing in a historic neighborhood.

    I’d like to see a strategy that employed our irreplaceable housing stock. It is unique to the U.S. It is pound for pound worth more than anything that could be constructed today.

    I know that people who need housing don’t want to play “This Old House”. That’s a barrier. How do you make it so that it is about people and not about houses?

  5. “Squatting” IS legal in New Orleans. You have to file paperwork with the City to do it, but if you make a claim on an abandoned house (I believe you must make an effort to contact the current owner to make your intent known) and maintain it for three years, it’s all yours. If the previous owner makes a claim to take back the house and you have made renovations, the previous owner must pay you back for your renovation costs.

    One source that may also provide answers is the NHS in the Feret neighborhood (though I believe they have moved their offices to another site temporarily). Loren Anderson or any of her staff could provide some ideas on how to find and take advantage of a Section 8 Homeownership Program.

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